By Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer
TOKYO (AP) — Toyota is considering a recall of its hot-selling Corolla subcompact after complaints about power steering problems — another blow to the world's largest automaker already reeling from a string of recalls for safety troubles.
Despite pressure from some lawmakers, President Akio Toyoda said he won't be attending the U.S. congressional hearing on the automaker's quality lapses, entrusting the job to U.S.-based executives — though would consider an appearance if the committee requests it. He said he wanted to focus on improving quality worldwide.
"I trust that our officials in the U.S. will amply answer the questions," Toyoda said Wednesday in his third news conference in two weeks. "We are sending the best people to the hearing, and I hope to back up the efforts from headquarters."
He said Yoshi Inaba, who heads Toyota Motor Corp.'s North American unit, was more familiar with the U.S. situation and was the best executive to deal with the hearing. Toyoda said he was still making plans to go to the U.S. and dates have yet to be set.
But in an alarming disclosure that could widen Toyota's recall crisis, the executive in charge of quality controls, Shinichi Sasaki, said Toyota was taking seriously the complaints about power-steering problems in the Corolla, the world's best-selling car.
Speaking at Toyota's Tokyo office, Sasaki said the company was putting customers first in a renewed effort to salvage its reputation and would do whatever is necessary if a Corolla fix is needed.
He said it was still uncertain if a Corolla recall would be necessary, but it is an option the automaker is considering.
He didn't disclose model years or regions that could be affected and said there have been fewer than 100 complaints. Toyota sold nearly 1.3 million Corolla cars worldwide last year.
Drivers may feel as though they were losing control over the steering, but it was unclear why, Sasaki said. He mentioned problems with the braking system or tires as possible underlying reasons for the steering problem.
U.S. federal safety officials have also said they are examining complaints from Corolla owners about steering problems.