More than 342,00 cars made by Mazda Motor Corp and BMW are under investigation by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) for possible steering defects that could lead to loss of vehicle control. NHTSA opened probes into 293,787 Mazda3’s from 2007 to 2009 year models and 48,764 BMW Z4 sports cars from 2003 to 2005. NHTSA is in the earliest stages of a formal review that could lead to recalls. The agency has stepped up its probes after the massive safety crisis at Toyota Motor Corp.

NHTSA has received 33 complaints about Mazda3 models that alleged a loss of power steering assist while driving, requiring excessive force by the driver to remain control. Only three of the 33 have caused crashes.

With the BMW Z4’s, NHTSA has received 107 complaints, alleging loss of power-assisted steering. The complaints state that the steering wheel sticks, binds or locks up requiring increased steering effort to maintain control, but increases the potential to over-steer the vehicle. The failures usually occur at higher vehicle speeds over 45 miles per hour and at temperatures at or above 75 degrees. One complaint involved a crash, and several complaints reported loss of vehicle control.

There have not been any fatalities reported with the Mazda3 and BMW Z4 complaints.

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