As investigations into how Toyota handled faulty steering relay rods in the company's pickup trucks and SUVs continue, critics suggest that it's quickly becoming clear that the company has mishandled repair and recall efforts. According to a USA Today article, Toyota had repaired vehicles with the defect for over 11 years in the U.S. before deciding to initiate a recall in Japan, and a recall for the 977,000 affected American vehicles didn't occur until one year later.

To compound the issue, not all owners were contacted about the recall once it went into effect, leaving plenty of potentialy defective vehicles in the hands of the public. Some owners were even made to pay for the repair out of their own pockets without reimbursement from the automaker, especially after the vehicle was out of warranty. In some cases, Toyota made what it calls goodwill repairs for free.

The investigation into the defective steering relay rods comes after the federal government fined Toyota the maximum allowable $16.4 million earlier this year for failing to notify the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration of unintended acceleration issues in a timely manner. The automaker is currently the plaintiff in a class action lawsuit in California concerning the faulty steering relay rods.

[Source: USA Today]