By AP Legal Affairs Writer
updated 5/10/2010 2:19:33 PM ET 2010-05-10T18:19:33

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.

___

Curt Anderson reported from Miami.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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