UPDATE 2-U.S. grand jury subpoenas Toyota on steering rods

* At least third subpoena for Toyota this year

* More than 10 mln vehicle recalls since September

* Subpoena seeks details on steering rods
(Rewrites with further detail; adds office of U.S. Attorney
declining comment on subpoena)

By Sachi Izumi and Jonathan Stempel

TOKYO/NEW YORK, July 20 (BestGrowthStock) – A U.S. grand jury has
ordered Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: ) to turn over documents
related to problems with rods that connect vehicle steering
systems to their front wheels, the company said on Tuesday.

The subpoena was at least the third Toyota has received
this year, potentially deepening the automaker’s legal issues
following its recall of more than 10 million vehicles since
last September.

The embarrassing recalls by Toyota, once considered a
benchmark for high vehicle quality, mainly concern unintended
acceleration, including pedals that stick or become caught
under floor mats.

Toyota said in a statement that it was complying with the
subpoena. The company did not identify the models and model
years covered by the latest subpoena, which a Toyota
spokeswoman said was received by a U.S. unit from a federal
grand jury in Manhattan on June 29.

A spokeswoman for the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney
Preet Bharara declined to comment on Tuesday.

A federal grand jury in the same prosecutorial district
subpoenaed Toyota in February as the automaker tackled a crisis
over how it handled problems that caused unintended
acceleration in vehicles. The following month, Michigan
Attorney General Mike Cox subpoenaed the company seeking
information on the recalls. [ID:nLDE61L1IP] [ID:nN24179338]

A grand jury probe raises the possibility of criminal
charges, on top of dozens of civil lawsuits that could cost
Toyota billions of dollars in damages [ID:nTOE66D02P].

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office has one of the highest
profiles in the United States, with jurisdiction over some of
Wall Street’s largest publicly traded companies. Toyota has
shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange (TM.N: ).

In May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
opened a probe into the timing of a September 2005 Toyota
recall for a steering relay rod problem. It questions whether
Toyota notified the agency of a defect within five business
days, as required by U.S. law.

Toyota recalled Hilux trucks with defective steering relay
rods in 2004 in Japan, but at the time told U.S. regulators the
defect was isolated to vehicles in Japan, NHTSA said.

The automaker later admitted the problem affected vehicles
sold in the United States. Its 2005 U.S. recall covered about
978,000 vehicles, including the 4Runner sport utility vehicle
and pickup trucks from the 1989-1996 model years.

The U.S. government ordered Toyota in April to pay a $16.4
million fine for delaying a January recall over accelerator
pedals that did not spring back as designed.

Toyota shares closed Tuesday down 2.6 percent in Tokyo. The
benchmark Nikkei average (.N225: ) fell 1.2 percent. Toyota
shares on the NYSE were down 1.9 percent in late Tuesday
morning trade.

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(Reporting by Sachi Izumi and Jonathan Stempel; Additional
reporting by Grant McCool; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Tim
Dobbyn)

UPDATE 2-U.S. grand jury subpoenas Toyota on steering rods