Bloomberg News (7/21, Ohnsman, Fisk) reports that a Federal grand jury in New York is compelling Toyota to “provide documents related to flaws in steering relay rods, the company said in a filing yesterday.” The piece alludes to NHTSA’s ongoing investigation into safety issues at the automaker, but notes that this issue “is separate from scrutiny of Toyota models for defects related to unintended acceleration.”
USA Today (7/21, Woodyard) reports adds that the subpoena may be linked to charges of “possible delays in a 2005 US recall of trucks over potentially faulty steering rods.” USA Today states that Toyota has been “dealing with cracking and breaking steering relay rods in the US for at least 11 years before” a 2004 recall in Japan. “It wasn’t until September 2005 that it recalled nearly a million similar trucks in the US.”
The Los Angeles Times (7/21, Bensinger) characterizes the subpoena as an “expansion” of the grand jury’s investigations “beyond problems related to unintended-acceleration issues, which have led Toyota to issue more than 10 million recall notices worldwide since September. The Times notes that NHTSA is investigating “whether the automaker delayed the recall, a potential violation of federal law. … NHTSA officials say they are exploring the timing of the recall, which came nearly a year after a similar action in Japan for the same defect.”
The Washington Post (7/21, Whoriskey) notes that this is Toyota’s “second subpoena from a federal grand jury this year,” the first being related to unintended acceleration. The Post quotes safety advocate Sean Kane saying that the latest subpoena “has the appearance of being a criminal investigation under the TREAD Act. … NHTSA has a strong case that Toyota may have misled the agency about the defect.” The New York Times (7/21, Tabuchi) notes that Toyota’s filing does not specify which models or years are being investigated.
Claybrook, other safety advocates fault lack of electronics experts on Toyota investigative panels. The Washington Post (7/21, Kindy) reports that former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook, former head of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, is among auto safety experts who “are criticizing the makeup of two advisory panels charged with determining the role of electronics in the sudden, unintended acceleration of vehicles. There are no electronics experts on Toyota Motor Corp.’s seven-member panel and just three on the National Academies’ 12-member panel.”
From the American Association for Justice news release.