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Q&A: Auto recalls on pace to break 2004 record

Auto recalls fast, furious

Seems like every day there are more auto recalls. What is the record?

Car recalls are booming these days, and the auto industry seems to be on a pace to set a record in 2014. As of late May, there have been about 23 million vehicles recalled. That already eclipses all of 2013, when about 22 million vehicles were recalled, which was significantly up from 2012 (16.4 million).

The record number of recalls in a year is 30.8 million in 2004. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, which keeps and studies the data, said the average number of recalls has been rising steadily. In the 1980s, according to the NHTSA, about 3.10 cars per million vehicles were recalled. In the 1990s, it shot up to 8.25 per million, and rose to 11.79 per million between 2000 and 2010.

Interestingly, studies such as the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey indicate steady improvements in vehicle quality over time.

So why are there more recalls now? Industry experts point to several factors, among them:

• Mike Rozembajgier, a vice president of Stericycle, a firm specializing in working with manufacturers on recall-related issues, told NBC News that today's cars are just more complicated. "Every new car has more gadgets and more functionality, and each layer added adds another level of complexity," he said.

• Bob Carter, Toyota's U.S. automotive operations chief, recently told analysts that companies are now "recalling vehicles to change problems that we anticipate might happen," according to the Associated Press.

• Automakers are moving faster to avoid bad publicity and record fines from government agencies. "All manufacturers are recalibrating their recall programs to go from 'if in doubt, don't recall' to 'if in doubt, recall,' " Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, told the Associated Press.

Recall standards

What does it take for a vehicle line to be recalled?

Vehicles are recalled when that model, or part of the model's equipment, isn't in compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, according to the NHTSA.

It wrote: "Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards set minimum performance requirements for those parts of the vehicle that most affect its safe operation (brakes, tires, lighting) or that protect drivers and passengers from death or serious injury in the event of a crash (air bags, safety belts, child restraints, energy absorbing steering columns, motorcycle helmets).

"These federal standards are applicable to all vehicles and vehicle-related equipment manufactured or imported for sale in the United States (including U.S. territories) and certified for use on public roads and highways."

Information about recalls can be found at safercar.gov.

Compiled from Times and wire reports. To submit a question, email answers@tampabay.com.

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Q&A: Auto recalls on pace to break 2004 record 05/30/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 30, 2014 12:17pm]

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