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Auto Recall Numbers Point To Interesting Trends

Conventional wisdom would be the number of recalls is increasing. After all, you can’t log onto a website without reading about another recall. Well, conventional wisdom could be wrong.

Join us..., a new car buying website, has conducted an analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data and come to this conclusion: the number of recalled vehicles is up, as are complaints, but the number of recall campaigns has dropped from 2009 to 2010.

The 2009 level was 175 campaigns, while the total for 2010 is 165 safety recalls. As Edmunds points out, nearly 19.1 million were recalled, which is up 5.7 million vehicles, or 42 percent, from the 2009 total of 13.4 million vehicles. However, according to Ward’s Auto, Toyota North America issued 17 campaigns potentially affecting some 6.6 million vehicles., or almost one-third of all recalls in the U.S. this year. (Ward also claims there were 17.2 million vehicles recalled but it’s not clear if it was including heavy-duty vehicles in its figures, which Edmunds appeared to do.)

Ward's provides a breakdown of recalls in 2010 for the top five manufacturers after Toyota:

  • GM launched 16 campaigns this year affecting some 2.8 million vehicles
  • American Honda Motor Co. Inc. issued 10 campaigns affecting up to 2.2 million vehicles
  • Nissan North America Inc. conducted 13 campaigns affecting roughly 1.9 million vehicles
  • Chrysler Group LLC recalled 1.1 million vehicles in 12 campaigns
  • Ford Motor Co. trimmed its recall total to 562,901 vehicles from 4.5 million in 2009 (and almost all of those for the Ford Windstar that has a rusting axle problem).

It seems as if the public is finally catching on to the phenomenon known as the Internet, which is why complaints are on the rise. According to Edmunds, nearly 41,000 complaints have been registered for model years 2005-2010 in the NHTSA database so far this year -- more than more twice that in 2009. “Looking at the year-over-year trends, typically the number of complaints goes up between 3,000 and 5,000 annually as more people discover the online complaints submission process. However, the Toyota recalls cast a much brighter spotlight on this process. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues into the future when recalls aren’t earning front page headlines,” commented Edmunds analyst Panee Segal.

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