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TOKYO - Toyota is considering a recall of its hot-selling Corolla subcompact after complaints about power steering problems, even as company president Akio Toyoda reiterated his promise of a brake-override system in all future models worldwide as an additional safety measure against the acceleration problems behind the current massive recalls.

In the alarming disclosure, the executive in charge of quality controls, Mr Shinichi Sasaki, said Toyota was taking seriously the complaints about power-steering problems in the Corolla, the world's best-selling car.

He said drivers may perceive a strange feeling as though they were losing control over the steering, but it was unclear whether the problem was with the braking system or a problem with the tyres. There have been fewer than 100 complaints.

It was still uncertain if a Corolla recall would be necessary but the auto-maker is considering one, Mr Sasaki said from Toyota's Tokyo office.

The number of affected vehicles is also unclear, but the company was putting customers first in a renewed effort to salvage its reputation and would do whatever is necessary if a fix is needed, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Toyoda said he will not be attending the United States congressional hearing on safety lapses, entrusting the job to US-based executives as he wanted to focus his energies on improving quality worldwide.

The US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding a hearing on Feb 24 on Toyota's accelerator pedal problems. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled one the next day.

Mr Toyoda promised a brake-override system mechanism that would override the accelerator if the accelerator and brake pedals are pressed at the same time.

Reports of deaths in the United States connected to sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles have surged in recent weeks, with the alleged death toll reaching 34 since 2000, according to new consumer data gathered by the US government.

Mr Toyoda, the grandson of the company's founder, would also head a task force to improve quality control and enable the group to respond more quickly to reports of defects. "We are not covering up anything, and we are not running away from anything,'' he said.

Toyota has also commissioned an independent research organisation to test its electronic throttle system, and will release the findings as they become available.

It took full-page advertisements in major Japanese newspapers yesterday to apologise for the massive recalls, most of which affect cars outside of Japan.

The world's biggest car-maker has published similar ads of apology in US newspapers.

Toyota has recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally during the past four months because of problems with sticking accelerator pedals, floor mats trapping accelerators and faulty brake programming. Agencies

From TODAY, Thursday, 18-Feb-2010


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