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Toyota Waited a Year to Issue Steering Recall

An Associated Press investigation has found that Toyota waited nearly a year to issue a U.S. recall in 2005 over defective steering rods in trucks and SUVs, despite a similar recall in Japan and dozens of reports from American motorists about rods that snapped without warning.

The gap between the Japanese and U.S. recalls has triggered a new review by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which could fine the automaker up to $16.4 million.

NHTSA has linked 16 crashes, three deaths and seven injuries to the steering defect.

Toyota claimed initially after the 2004 Japanese recall that it had little evidence of a U.S. problem. But the AP has found that the automaker had received at least 52 reports from U.S. drivers.

Earlier Monday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said more fines are possible for Toyota if further safety violations are uncovered.

LaHood said Monday that documents submitted by Toyota to the U.S. government are still being reviewed, and he would not hesitate to impose more penalties.

He spoke at Toyota's headquarters in central Japan after meeting with the carmaker's president, Akio Toyoda.

Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide and paid a record $16.4 million U.S. government fine because of a four-month delay in telling authorities about defective gas pedals.

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