August 8, 2006
Regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating consumer complaints about two popular Toyotas, the Tundra pickup and the Sienna van.
The investigations are more bad news for recall plagued Toyota and once again call into question the automakers reputation for quality.
NHTSA has upgraded an investigation into reports of excessive wear of a front suspension part in 2003 and 2004 Toyota Tundra pickups and has had opened a separate probe into 2004 and 2005 Toyota Sienna minivans after receiving reports of four injuries that occurred when the liftgates shut unexpectedly.
Toyota recalled a million vehicles worldwide in July.
After reports of 142 suspension failures in some 2003-2005 Toyota Tundra pickups, NHTSA upgraded the investigation of the trucks lower ball joints to an engineering analysis and that could lead to an expanded recall for the trucks.
This is the second investigation of Toyota trucks for ball joint failures in just a year.
Toyota recalled certain models of the 2001 through 2004 Tundra, Sequoia, Tacoma and 4Runner on May 16, 2005 because of the potential for the lower ball joint to separate.
The 2005 recall involved approximately 775,000 trucks and SUVs during a time frame when the assembly process might have produced scratches on the ball surface causing premature wear.
Toyota replaced the lower ball joints in the recalled vehicles but now NHTSA is investigating consumer reports of ball joint failures in Toyota Tundras that were not part of the 2005 recall.
The latest NHTSA investigation involves as many as 219,522 Tundras that were not covered by last year's recall.
NHTSA has received 4 consumer complaints of incidents where the lower ball joint in a Tundra separated while driving and the suspension collapsed causing loss of vehicle control.
The 142 trucks experiencing the suspension failure had an average mileage of 54,782. There are 83 reported suspension failures in 4 wheel drive Tundras and 59 in 2 wheel drive trucks. None of the Toyota trucks with collapsed suspensions were part of the 2005 recall.
NHTSA has received 8 complaints with 4 reported injuries after the liftgate on the Sienna inadvertently closed during normal use and hit the complainant on the head or body. The investigation covers 393,313 vehicles.
Toyota told dealers in March 2004 it was redesigning minivans' liftgate struts from that model year to prevent damage to a seal. Six of the latest complaints were for 2004 models, and two were for the 2005 version.
NHTSA Probes 600,000 Toyota Trucks and Vans...