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U.S. to investigate Toyota Corolla steering problems

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The U.S. will open an investigation Thursday to probe possible steering issues on about 500,000 Toyota Corollas.

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official, about 363,000 Corollas from model year 2009 and 136,000 from 2010 could be affected.

NHTSA will formally announce the probe Thursday, the official said. As of last week, NHTSA said it had collected more than 80 complaints about steering problems in 2009 and 2010 Corollas.

Many of the complaints involve the car drifting at high speeds. Other owners complain of other issues including steering wheel vibrations or exaggerated motions from small steering inputs.

On Thursday morning, a Toyota rep said the company is "aware of [the] complaints ... and are actively investigating the issue. While we have not received official notification from NHTSA, we will certainly cooperate fully with any NHTSA investigation. We're committed to being responsive to our customers."

The Corolla is Toyota's second most popular model, after the Camry.

It's the latest in a spate of recent problems for Toyota (TM), which has recalled more than 8.1 million vehicles worldwide for issues including sticking accelerator pedals.

On Tuesday NHTSA demanded documents from Toyota to determine if the automaker conducted its recent recalls in a timely manner. Also, Toyota announced it would suspend production at two U.S. plants.

The automaker's reputation has felt the blow, as sales lag following the massive recalls.

Earlier Wednesday, in Japan, Toyota President Akio Toyoda addressed reporters for the third time in two weeks. He pledged tighter safety controls but said he will not appear before U.S. lawmakers at hearings to be held next week.

The Associated Press reported that at the Japan press conference, Toyota's executive in charge of quality controls said it was still uncertain if a Corolla recall was necessary, but that it was an option the company was considering. To top of page

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