Car Industry

Subaru stops two Japanese factories to address power-steering defect

The automaker's still investigating the cause of the problem, which can disable the power steering.

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Subaru has discovered a defect in the power-steering systems of some of its Japanese-built vehicles, and has shut down the plants briefly as it investigates the root cause.

On Wednesday Subaru announced that it had idled two plants in Japan's Gunma prefecture on Jan. 16 when it discovered a defect that may disable a vehicle's power steering and illuminate a warning lamp. According to the automaker's press release, it hopes to have the plant up and running again on Jan. 28.

The two plants comprise a majority of Subaru's global manufacturing, including some models destined for the US. A Subaru spokesperson said approximately 10,000 examples of the Crosstrek and Forester might be affected, but the final number may be smaller.

Subaru's Japanese plants represent an overwhelming majority of its global sales, and the company isn't sure how the shutdown will affect its bottom line in the short term.

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The spokesperson also stressed that no affected units have reached dealers or consumers, so there won't be a need for a recall in the US. Any vehicles en route to retailers will receive a permanent fix before going on sale. This problem does not affect Subaru vehicles built in the US at its Indiana facility.

In its press release, Subaru said it's still working to determine the cause. A loss of power steering can make turning the wheel more difficult, especially at idle. Subaru Japan recommends that Japanese owners who experience this fault should stop driving and contact a dealer. In addition to affecting the Forester and Crosstrek (called the XV) in Japan, the problem also affects the Japanese-market Impreza.

Subaru suffered a scandal in Japan in 2017 when it copped to decades of "flawed" vehicle inspections. Both Subaru and Nissan admitted to using unauthorized employees in quality-control jobs, in violation of Japanese regulations. Both automakers recalled vehicles for additional inspections following their admissions.

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