The National Highway Safety Administration is considering a more formal probe into the problems reported by owners with steering on 2009-2010 Toyota Corolla sedans. The Corolla is one of the most popular sedans in America. In December, the last full month of Corolla sales prior to Toyota's recall of accelerator pedals in January, Toyota sold 34,220 Corollas in the U.S.
"We are reviewing steering complaints with the Corolla to determine if a safety defect investigation is warranted, as is standard procedure with all complaints," Aldana told us in an email this morning.
Automotive News reports that the Corolla's steering problem -- which is best described a "unintended veering" -- raised 83 complaints since April of 2008. The news report said that 76 of those incidents took place over 40 mph, with the cars inadvertently veering to the right or left.
In total, ten injuries from six accidents have been reported.
In complaints filed with NHTSA, owner stories of the events ranged from mild to terrifying.
"2009 Toyota Corolla EPS (electronic power steering) causes the car to wander at speeds higher than 50 mph," wrote one Toyota Corolla driver on June 18, 2009. "This makes for very dangerous driving conditions. Toyota needs to address the issue and do a recall to fix the problem."
Another complaint drove home how frightening the issue could be.
"This was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me in my life as well as my grandchildren!" wrote one North Carolina resident in a complaint registered on September 11, 2009.
While Toyota has not provided an official comment on complaints, some owners who filed complaints provided their own reasoning for why the car might pull to the left or the right.
"[I] notice the steering wheel sometimes pulses only when my cell phone is...docked to the right of the steering wheel," wrote one Corolla driver in an official complaint on June 26, 2009. "It's strange I can sometimes tell if my Blackberry is going to ring or get an email. The steering wheel seems to shake or try to steer on its own. This is similar to my other 2009 Toyota Corolla that I resold to the dealer. I wonder if more shielding is needed to reduce any interference."
NHTSA said through a spokesperson that they will continue to monitor the complaints and will consider a formal investigation.