Car giant Toyota is facing a fresh investigation by US regulators into its handling of vehicle recalls over a steering problem in 2005.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is probing reports that the manufacturer delayed US recall of trucks and SUVs over faulty steering rods for nearly a year, despite complaints from motorists and the issuing of a similar alert in Japan.
Under US regulations, the NHTSA must be notified about safety defects within five days after a company decides the problem exists.
Toyota has just paid a fine of 16.4 million dollars (£11m) over its handling of recent acceleration problems, which led to the recall of millions of cars worldwide. It could be forced to pay a similar amount over the alleged delays in the 2005 recall.
NHTSA administrator, David Strickland, said: "Our team is working to obtain documents and information from Toyota to find out whether the manufacturer notified NHTSA within five business days of discovering a safety defect in US vehicles."
A spokeswoman for the safety regulator said they were "taking this seriously and reviewing the facts to determine whether a timeliness investigation is warranted".
The NHTSA has now linked 16 crashes, three deaths and seven injuries to the steering rod defect. When a steering rod snaps, the driver cannot control the vehicle because the front wheels will not turn.
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