Japan's Mazda is recalling nearly 320,000 vehicles in North America over a potentially deadly malfunction in their power steering, US authorities said Wednesday.

The recall of its popular Mazda 3 and Mazda 5 models was issued for vehicles manufactured between April 2, 2007 and November 30, 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a posting on its website.

The recall affects a total of 319,714 cars in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Mazda said in a statement.

The bulk of the vehicles - 215,000 - are in the United States.

"These vehicles may have a condition in which a sudden loss of power steering assist could occur at any time while driving the car," the NHTSA said.

The malfunction reduces the "driver's ability to steer the vehicle as typically expected, and increasing the risk of a crash."

The NHTSA opened an inquiry into the malfunction in July after receiving 33 complaints linked to the popular car models, it said.

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