The Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. announced Wednesday that it would be recalling nearly 700 of its 2013 Lexus GS 350 models because of a software issue that could cause steering wheel problems. The recall also includes some two-wheel drive F Sport grade Lexus GS350s.
Steering wheel may be off-center
According to Toyota, the software flaw may be causing the variable-ratio steering system to default to zero degrees when a driver restarts the engine shortly after parking, even if the wheels are not straight. This could cause it to become off-center by as much as 110 degrees. If the driver does not notice the off-kilter wheel before starting out, his or her steering may become unintentionally skewed, leading to an accident.
Error found in February
The Japanese automaker says they discovered the problem on February 15, during a routine in-house test drive. They fixed the error in the vehicles that had not yet shipped out from Toyota’s assembly facilities.
The recall affects 663 cars built between December 12, 2011 and February 7, 2012. Toyota will be contacting affected owners by mail sometime in June. Owners can reach Toyota at 800-331-4331 for questions about the recall.
Toyota addressed the action in a statement:
“Dealers will update the VGRS ECU calibration to address the condition.”
Could raise questions about system
The variable-ratio steering system, gaining ground among automakers, makes it more difficult to over-steer at high speeds, as well as extending the steering ratio at lower speeds where maneuverability is more of an issue. However, the current incident may cause questions to be raised and draw scrutiny to safety of the systems.
Earlier recalls prompt swift action
Earlier, Toyota was forced to recall nearly 10 million 2009 and 2010 vehicles for unintended accelerations. Those recalls followed the death of a family in a runaway Lexus. In addition, Toyota was fined $50 million by federal safety regulators for not addressing the issue in a timely manner. Since then, the automaker has been prompt to come forward with its safety worries.
On April 12, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed that automakers have brake override systems mandatorily installed. The proposal came as a fallout to Toyota’s large-scale recall campaigns over unintended accelerations.
Under the NHTSA proposal, all cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. would be required to have an override system installed whereby an operator can stop a vehicle, in the case of unintended acceleration, by pressing the brake and the gas pedal simultaneously.