• Jul 13, 2010
2009-2010 Toyota Matrix – click above for high-res image gallery

Back in February, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration initiated an investigation of 749,685 2009 and 2010 model year Corolla and Matrix vehicles for a potential steering issue. And while we haven't heard much from the government agency regarding this issue, the Detroit Free Press reports that Toyota has indicated that the problem is not a safety defect and thus doesn't warrant a recall. Instead, the automaker will provide a free fix to customers who claim to have an issue.

NHTSA reportedly launched the investigation after 168 reports that Corolla and Matrix electric power steering units were prone to drifting or locking up, with the problem most notable when cruising at highway speeds. Toyota has reportedly told the Free Press that it has collected a total of 437 reports, including 11 injuries and 18 crashes. Further, the automaker has been receiving complaints about this issue since 2008. Spokesperson Brian Lyons reportedly tells the Freep that the majority of issues involve wandering from the dead-ahead steering position and that the company considers the problem a customer satisfaction issue, not a defect.

To address customer concerns, Toyota has sent a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) to its dealers advising technicians to check tire pressure and alignment. If that doesn't fix the problem, the next step is to replace the computer that governs the electric power steering with a new unit that has been re-tuned with a different steering feel.

Not classifying the Corolla/Matrix issues as a safety defect figures to save the Japanese company a lot of cash that would be tied up in a recall. Toyota will also avoid having to update regulators, who were informed of its decision to forgo recall proceedings way back in May. NHTSA hasn't publicly said anything since the Toyota proclamation and the investigation is reportedly still ongoing. With 11 injuries, 18 crashes and hundreds of reported problems, we're very interested to see if NHTSA ultimately agrees with Toyota on this one, or if the situation will eventually result in another recall and additional bad publicity for the automaker. Likewise, with General Motors having sold its own Matrix twin, the Pontiac Vibe, it presumably faces the same sort of steering issue. If so, it will be interesting to see if the Detroit automaker chooses to address the issue in the same way.



[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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  • 40 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      You'd think they would have learned by now.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Jared , You can't teach a old dg new tricks any ways it seems that is the case with Toyota, But at least they did issue a TBS , Though how many do not know their calls have this problem until it too late..Toyota is trying to save cash at the expense of their customers life's. doesn't sound like the best Plan to me if you want to be known as a automaker with safe products.

        I guess the best thing the consumers can do is stay away from this automaker who shows a lack of concern for its buyers
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yea, they issue a TSB. But when you take it to the dealer, the dealer "can not duplicate" and doesn't know anything about the issue unless you have the TSB in your hand.

        Been there, done that, with more than one automaker.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This is especially troubling since it only takes a small variation in steering at highway speeds to kill someone and most customers will likely not know their is anything wrong with their car until it is too late. Toyota should have taken it on the chin and done the recall. People are so used to hearing the words Toyota recall this year that it couldn't hurt their reputation any more.

        GM's marketing department needs to jump on this and insist that the company do the full recall on the Vibe. There is no fear of damaging the Pontiac brand but it will provide the appearance that they care more about their customers and totally upset Matrix/Corolla drivers. Besides there are far fewer Vibes on the road so the cost of doing a recall will be much lower. Another Corolla recall for Toyota would be huge.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Its funny how Ford did the same thing to when they updated the software on Fusion and Milan hybrids due to braking issues. No one gave them crap; I love how everyone here has double standards.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I wonder if any other automakers are having problems with their steering with no recall yet?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hyundai... Ford here I come.
      • 4 Years Ago
      2010 will be known as the Watergate year for Toyota.
      Julie
      • 2 Years Ago
      I had an '09 Matrix that started smoking under the hood while I was driving. Tried to pull over and the brakes had failed and all the dash lights were lit up. I had to stop with my emergency brake! I got out and moved away from the car and it erupted into flames. Within 5 min. the car was engulfed. Toyota sent out one of their inspectors and so did my insurance company. My ins. found the ECM/fuse panel to be at fault, and MYSTERIOUSLY, Toyota says they just couldn't figure what caused it. No kidding? Our family has owned 3 Toyota's in the past 20 years but with their safety record in the last 5? -NO MORE TOYOTA'S!!!!
      Roy Willis
      • 1 Year Ago
      I just purchased a 2009 corolla S and on the first freeway trip I found the car to require constant steering correction to stay in the lane. It has a " nervous, hunting feel " that requires 100% attention that is tiring to say the least. My 1996 Tacoma pick-up with 220,000 miles was much more stable.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "the majority of issues involve wandering from the dead-ahead steering position and that the company considers the problem a customer satisfaction issue, not a defect."

      The steering wheel is dead-ahead and the car wanders in a different direction - I would say that this is a major safety concern. Indeed, this would be a huge customer satisfaction issue. You are not satisfied when your car wanders into oncoming traffic.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree. The problem here is that Toyota has stonewalled previous quality problems. The trust between the company and its customers has been broken. The constant press coverage of Toyota issues is beginning to effect how young people perceive the brand:

        http://wp.me/pQr4T-97
        • 4 Years Ago
        It actually could just be the effect of a poorly surfaced road. There is one in my city that does that. Everytime I pass over about a 1/2 mile of it that has been poorly repaved after construction, even with my wheel dead center my car will wander slightly to the left. All I have to do is turn the wheel very slightly to the right and problem solved. I've driven this road in many different cars and they all do it to some extent. I'm sure similar road conditions elsewhere could be responsible for at least part of the problem.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Toyota will fix it if you bitch about it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Funny how even non defects like this are held against Toyota. Imagine if they did the same to the D3, can you say "bankruptcy within a year"?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Isn't numb steering on a Toyota a feature, not a defect?

      • 4 Years Ago
      Accurate steering requires driver attention. The RAV is the same way.

      Did anyone drive the MR2 Spyder? You could end up in another lane just thinking about it. That's called good steering.

      • 4 Years Ago
      I am by no means for or against Toyota, having never owned one, but I have driven several small cars that are all over the place at highway speeds depending on the road surface and wind conditions. And yes, low tire pressure can help contribute. It *sounds* like that may have been a major contributor, as a true 'lock up' at highway speeds would be disastrous, and all over the headlines.

      Oh...to be back in that 90s era neon passing semis and getting blown over a few feet.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Since when is steering lock at highway speeds not a safety issue?
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm with you, sounds fishy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree. I was surprised when I read "drifting or locking" lumped together. There's a huge difference. Many cars have sloppy steering that requires an occassional correction and it's a particular issue with economy cars that will track on grooves in a highway. Steering locking is a huge safety concern if the problem indeed exists.
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