WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- BMW AG and Mazda Motor Corp. cars are under investigation by the U.S. auto-safety regulator for possible defects with power-steering systems.
The BMW Z4 and Mazda3 have been the subject of 140 complaints related to a loss of power steering, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said today on its website. The probe of more than 342,000 vehicles may lead to recalls.
The safety agency has elevated oversight of defects following record recalls of more than 10.6 million vehicles by Toyota Motor Corp. The auto industry is on alert after Toyota's recalls for defects linked to unintended acceleration, said Bill Visnic, senior editor at Edmunds.com, a research firm in Santa Monica, Calif.
“Nobody's hanging around waiting on these things,” Visnic said. “No one wants to say they let the next unintended acceleration fall through the cracks.”
The model year 2007-2009 Mazda3s have had three reported crashes out of 33 complaints and model year 2003-2005 BMW Z4s have had one crash and 107 complaints, NHTSA said.
“We will provide all the information they request and we cooperate with them always at these levels,” said Tom Kowaleski, a U.S.-based spokesman for BMW, based in Munich.
U.S. spokeswomen for Mazda didn't respond to telephone calls seeking comment.
‘Steering wheel sticks'
The investigation covers an estimated 48,764 BMWs and 293,787 Mazdas, NHTSA said. The BMW “steering wheel sticks, binds or locks up, and requires increased steering effort resulting in difficulty controlling the vehicle,” the agency said.
The BMW malfunction, which occurs at speeds of 45 miles per hour or greater and temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, may cause drivers to over-steer when turning, NHTSA said.
For Mazda, the complaints “allege loss of power steering assist while driving, requiring excessive force on the driver's part to maintain control, or in some cases causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle,” NHTSA said.
BMW has recalled this year in the U.S. motorcycles for brake and stalling defects, 1 Series luxury cars for seat-belt retractors that could ignite and sport-utility vehicles because windshields may not be properly attached.