Toyota Recalls 550,000 Vehicles on Steering Flaw

Toyota recalled about 550,000 vehicles worldwide to replace the crankshaft pulley on the V6 engine, Amiko Tomita, a spokeswoman for the automaker said by phone today. About 80 percent of the vehicles are in the U.S., she said.

“If this condition is not corrected, the belt for the power steering pump may become detached from the pulley and the driver may notice a sudden increase in steering effort,” Toyota said in a statement.

The maker of the Camry sedan recalled millions of U.S. vehicles last year and in 2009, mostly for defects related to unintended acceleration, and paid a record $48.8 million in fines because of the way some of the recalls were conducted. The recalls caused the Toyota City-based company to briefly halt sales of some models in 2010 and contributed to its 0.4 percent U.S. sales decrease last year, the only such decline among large automakers.

No accidents have been reported, Tomita said.

The vehicles being recalled are the 2004 Avalon, the 2004 and 2005 Camry and 2006 Highlander HV. Within the Lexus brand, the 2004 and 2005 ES330, the RX330 and the 2006 RX400h are being recalled, according to the statement.

Toyota rose 1.6 percent to 2,542 yen at the close of trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange while the benchmark Nikkei 225 (NKY) climbed 1.2 percent. The carmaker’s shares have slumped 21 percent this year, compared with a 14 percent drop for the Nikkei 225.

The carmaker recalled 1.7 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in January for defects in fuel pipes and pumps, pressure sensors and spare tire carriers. It called back 2.17 million in February for carpet and floor-mat flaws that could jam gas pedals.

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