Hyundai will recall nearly 140,000 2011 Sonata models because of a a steering defect.

Federal regulators have announced the recall of nearly 140,000 Hyundai Sonata sedans due to a potential steering problem that could cause a loss of control.

The recall, announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, covers the majority of the latest-generation Hyundai midsize sedan, specifically those manufactured between December 2009 and September 2010.

According to a NHTSA statement, “On some of these vehicles, the steering column intermediate shaft universal joint connections may have been either improperly assembled or insufficiently tightened.”

In rare instances, the agency says, it is possible that a vehicle may experience a reduction or complete loss of steering capability due to the manufacturing defect.

Hyundai produces the Sonata at a plant in Alabama, its first assembly line in North America.

In all, 139,500 of the current Sonata sedans are covered by the recall.  The maker launched the latest-generation Sonata in January 2010 but used a 2011 model-year designation.

The maker plans to notify consumers and will offer free inspections, as well as free repairs, if needed.  The recall is expected to begin in October.

The announcement could prove a significant embarrassment for a company that has been pressing hard to overcome the reputation for poor quality it had during its American debut, in the mid-1980s.

In recent years, Hyundai has sought to assuage owners with an extensive, 10-year warranty, even as third-party studies, such as the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey, have shown a significant improvement in quality and reliability.

While Hyundai had to recall more than 1 million vehicles in 2009 due to corrosion problems it has had relatively little trouble this year, with relatively limited  recalls typically involving as few as 100 vehicles per incident.

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