Toyota has been forced to issue yet another - albeit much smaller - recall, this time of the 2009 and 2010 Lexus LS 460 sedan and 2010 Lexus LS 600h hybrid. The Lexus LS is the uber-luxury flagship of Toyota's premium Lexus division, and as such it is outfitted with the very latest in driving technologies. Unfortunately, it would seem that not all of these high tech features are ready for prime time.
The recall stems from a problem with the vehicle's available electronic steering system, which is known as Variable Gear Ratio Steering. The feature does not always function properly after the LS' steering wheel has been turned all the way to one side or another - in fact, the steering wheel itself appears to fall out of sync with the position of the vehicle's wheels when attempting to return them to the straight-ahead position. Instead of lining up properly when the sedan is pointing straight, the wheel lags behind for a period of up to five seconds before automatically returning on-center in a gradual, incremental fashion. A traditional steering system could not suffer from a similar problem, due to the fact that a mechanical linkage exists between the front wheels and the steering wheel in the vehicle's cabin - linkage that does not exist in a steer-by-wire system.
Toyota has posted a video of the problem on YouTube, illustrating how most Lexus drivers are likely to encounter it. The issue is severe enough the Lexus has issued a stop sale on all new Lexus LS sedans offering the feature until the company is able to manufacture the replacement computer component required to correct the failure. Although no firm date for either recall repairs or assembly-line changes has been announced, it would appear that it will take at least two weeks before any Lexus vehicles will see this particular problem taken care of.
In the meantime, Toyota has advised drivers to avoid 'quickly turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction'? after having spun it all the way around to full lock. Although only 3,800 editions of the 2009 and 2010 LS have been sold in the United States which are equipped with the troublesome electronic steering feature (50 percent of LS 460 and 600h's sold), it would still seem to be rather optimistic for Toyota to assume that Lexus LS pilots will be able to adjust their driving habits to avoid performing what is undoubtedly a very common steering maneuver.
Toyota has also had to deal with rumors that its proposed joint sports car venture with Subaru, dubbed the FT-86, could be put on hold for as long as two years. The projected release date for the vehicle has been delayed until 2013 instead of the originally announced 2011. Sources inside Toyota have indicated that the foot-dragging apparently centers on design issues which could see the car head off in a substantially different styling direction than what has already been revealed at international auto shows. The brand is also reluctant to introduce an all-new vehicle, particularly one which is targeted at a very young demographic, at a time when the world is still recovering from a difficult period of recession.