Update: NHTSA probes delay in Toyota steering relay rod recall

Here’s another indication of trouble for Toyota. A report in USA Today indicates that Toyota waited 11 months after recalling trucks in Japan for a steering defect before it recalled nearly 1 million 4Runner SUVs and T100 and Hi Lux pickups in the U.S.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has reports of three deaths and seven injuries from the faulty steering relay rods on the 1989 to 1998 model trucks and has asked Toyota to explain the gap between a recall in Japan in October 2004 and one in the U.S. of 977,839 similar vehicles in September 2005.

Toyota says it will cooperate with NHTSA’s investigation, but the new allegations of foot-dragging could deal “another severe blow” to Toyota’s “already fragile consumer trust,” says Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at auto-industry researcher TrueCar.com.