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New Toyota recall: Avalon, Lexus

Toyota Corp. said Thursday that it is recalling 412,000 Avalons and Lexuses for steering problems, bringing the number of cars recalled around the world since October to nearly 9 million.

The 373,000 recalled Avalon models, dating from 2000 to 2004, have improperly cast steering lock bars that appear to have been a factor in three accidents reported to the company. This problem can cause what Toyota described as a "minute" crack to develop on the surface. The crack, in turn, can break the bar and lock the steering wheel, increasing the risk of a crash.

The 39,000 Lexus luxury model LX 470s being recalled date from a four-year period beginning in 2003. They have a different steering shaft problem, and no injuries have been reported related to this issue, Toyota said.

Steve St. Angelo, Toyota chief quality officer for North America, said in a statement that the automaker "is continuing to work diligently to address safety issues wherever they arise and to strengthen our global quality assurance operations so that Toyota owners can be confident in the safety of their vehicles."

Toyota has launched a worldwide ad campaign to try to convince an increasingly angry public that defects related to the reports of sudden, unintended acceleration were isolated. The company was fined a record $16.4 million in the United States and faces more than 200 lawsuits related to the accidents involving problem vehicles. - The Washington Post

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