Federal regulators at the National Highway and Safety Administration caution that they have not decided whether recalls are necessary, but NHTSA has been getting more aggressive with automakers over safety issues after allegations of being too close to the industry.
The Toyota Motor Co. investigation focuses on Prius hybrids built between 2004 and 2009. Many of them were already the target of a recall last November involving steering shaft defects in 669,000 2004 to 2009 hybrids. Prius hybrids, the country's best-selling hybrid vehicle, were recalled for steering problems once before in 2006. In 2012, Toyota had the most vehicles recalled of any brand in the U.S. market, the third time it achieved that dubious distinction in four years. The company has already had 1 million vehicles recalled since the beginning of 2013.
The Ford Motor Co. investigation targets 724,000 Escape, Fusion and Mercury Mariner and Milan models after NHTSA received 123 reports that the vehicles lost power or completely stalled unexpectedly. Vehicles produced between 2009 and 2011 are involved in the investigation.
The smallest new investigation is looking into 87,000 Honda Pilots from the 2005 model year after receiving 205 reports of severe braking that could be caused by a faulty sensor in the model's Vehicle Stability Assist system.