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Auto recalls down overall -- but not for all manufacturers

March 4, 2022
As the U.S. embarks on Vehicle Safety Recalls Week (March 7-13), there is a natural pause and curiosity around how manufacturers are doing on that score. Given a 42% increase in recalls from 2014 onward and a rise in electronics and software which, per the Automotive Defect and Recall Report issued by the Original Equipment Suppliers Association, now accounts for the highest percentage (26%) of vehicle recalls, one would expect the first couple of months of 2022 to show even more recalls.
That, however, has not been the case. So far in 2022, there have been just 111 total recalls by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration across all vehicle manufacturers, which constitutes the lowest pace in a decade. Also, the number of potentially affected vehicles is down sharply, with only 4.6 million vehicles affected so far — barely half of the best January-February total in the past five years (8.3 million vehicles in 2018) and is only 20% of the numbers in 2019 and 2020 (22.1 million and 21.0 million, respectively).
Some manufacturers have been doing exceptionally well. Volvo and Mazda have not had a single recall so far in 2022, which obviously means 0.0% of their respective 2021 production volumes. Perhaps equally as impressive, General Motors has recalled only 1,811 vehicles, which is the equivalent of 0.1% of last year’s vehicles (2.3 million). Mercedes-Benz also has recalled only 0.1%, albeit with much lower U.S. volumes (330,000 vehicles).
The pace of recalls so far has slowed to the lowest number in a decade. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers have enjoyed the same improvements. 
Tesla already has been the target of four recalls affecting 2.2 million vehicles, which would constitute 671% of its 2021 production volumes. Of the three recalls involving more than 500,000 vehicles, Tesla was responsible for two of them.  The latest was a well-publicized recall of vehicles that made farting and bleating noises externally, thereby potentially interfering with pedestrian crossings. When Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, was asked on Twitter what caused the recall, he replied "The fun police made us do it (sigh)."
There likely are many root causes for the overall drop in recalls. First and foremost, the Takata airbag recalls during 2014-2021 of 67 million vehicles certainly added to the increased quality issues. So far, 2022 has had only six airbag recalls, with three of them combining for less than 400 vehicles. 
Also, more manufacturers have been mandating compliance to engineering standards as part of supplier negotiations. "As more and more organizations focus on how they approach functional safety and systems engineering thoroughly," said Kugler Maag Cie North America’s CEO, Peter Abowd, "we will hopefully continue to see a decrease in the number of required safety recalls."