The United States federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating a possible steering defect that could affect 714,000 General Motors vehicles, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.

The NHTSA on Monday said it has received 357 complaints that the steering in the vehicles locked up or lost power, AP reported, adding that, in some cases, the vehicles became difficult to steer while making left turns.

According to AP, NHTSA said the vehicles involved were built between January 1, 1996, and October 31, 1997 and are the 1996-98 Buick Regal; the 1997-98 Buick Century; the 1996-98 Chevrolet Lumina and Monte Carlo; the 1996-97 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme; and the 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue.

GM spokesman Jim Schell told Associated Press the company is cooperating with the investigation.

NHTSA's vehicle investigations can lead to a recall, AP noted, adding that the vehicles have a steering rack identical to the one found in 1.1 million GM vehicles that were recalled last year for steering problems.

The vehicles recalled then were the Chevrolet Cavalier, Venture and Lumina; the Pontiac Sunfire, Transport and Grand Prix; and the Oldsmobile Silhouette all made between 1996 and 1997, AP said.

Schell told Associated Press that GM did its own investigation and decided there wasn't enough data to expand the recall to the vehicles NHTSA is now investigating.