Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S. will announce tomorrow that Japanese executives will order the recall of the most expensive 2010 model LS 460, 460L, LS 600h L Lexus sedans because of defective power steering.
This latest electronic calibration or control defect is being announced as James E. Lentz, President and Chief Operating Officer, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., today told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that “Toyota’s ETCS-i (electronic engine control computer) has been subjected to comprehensive testing over more than a decade without a single unintended acceleration event. Toyota has never discovered or been provided with any evidence that the ETCS-i can cause unintended acceleration in a real world scenario.”
U.S. sales executives do not have the authority to order a recall, and previous illegal delays in fixing a known safety defect by the offshore Japanese in charge of Toyota engineering and manufacturing resulted in a record fine of more than $16 million from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other Toyota safety recall delays are still under investigation at NHTSA. Both civil and criminal penalties are possible.
On the Lexus sedans in question with optional Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), the steering wheel may stick 90-degrees off center during aggressive maneuvering. It is the latest of a growing list of quality and safety defects at the Japanese sales leader.
This safety related defect occurs after driving from a tight turn where the steering was at the end of its travel (full lock to the left or right). VGRS “automatically” corrects the steering wheel off-center condition as the vehicle is driven within one to three seconds. Toyota said, “The driver may notice this condition as the steering wheel slowly moves to the center position while driving straight during the VGRS correction.”
A trend is emerging at Toyota and other makers: The electronic controls and the computer programs that now run everything from engine speed and output, transmission shift points, electronic stability controls and antilock brakes, among other systems, are not defect free.
While this is probably not new, what has changed is increased scrutiny from NHTSA; an agency that critics say ignored numerous Toyota safety problems, but is now being more diligent.
Toyota will replace the control computer on the affected vehicles. The problem occurred after it changed the programming on 2010 models.