DETROIT — Auto safety regulators in the United States are deciding if they will investigate a complaint that the steering can fail on the Toyota Prius.
An automotive testing laboratory in Virginia asked for the investigation on Jan. 30, after it evaluated a 2005 Prius owned by a client, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday on its website.
The probe could affect about 561,000 of the gas-electric hybrids from the 2004 through 2009 model years.
Automotive Systems Analysis of Reston, Va., said in a petition that the upper steering shaft on the client’s car failed and came loose from the electric power assist steering column. The lab said it wasn’t installed properly, causing the metal to fail.
NHTSA’s documents said the lone complaint about the problem came from the car’s owner, a man from San Diego, Calif. He told NHTSA in 2011 that he heard a snapping sound from the steering wheel while he tried to park his Prius while traveling about 5 miles per hour.
Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said in an e-mail that the company is cooperating with NHTSA.