Toyota Motor's gold standard reputation for quality has been a vital ingredient in powering sales. But as Toyota expands and overtakes its main US competitors, its cherished status is losing a bit of lustre.

Last week Toyota recalled 500 000 pick-up trucks and 4x4s in the US to correct a possible flaw in the suspension that may make the vehicles hard to steer. The recall was similar to another by Toyota in 2005 covering the same defect in about 800 000 Tundras and Sequoias.

This time, it knew of 11 accidents that might be related to the defect, including six injuries, said Bill Kwong, a Toyota spokesperson.

Has the most copied and most envied car maker of the past 20 years suddenly lost its way? Most quality experts say no. Toyota has had recalls before, as have all car makers. In fact, the number of vehicles the company recalled last year plunged from the year earlier.

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