U.S. light-vehicle recalls have plunged to their lowest level in five years. But as the nature of safety recalls changes with the evolution of automotive technology, automakers and dealerships are turning to new tools to reach owners of recalled vehicles.
Automakers recalled 30.7 million cars and light trucks in the United States last year, NHTSA reports. That was a dramatic drop from 2016, when recalls related to defective — and potentially deadly — Takata airbag inflators elevated the total to a record 53 million.
Although Takata-related recalls are expected to continue at least through 2020, NHTSA reports that 60 percent of the roughly 50 million vehicles covered by those recalls in the United States have been fixed. Overall, 70 to 80 percent of all vehicles recalled in 2016 and 2017 got repaired, industry analysts estimate.
Over the past two decades, the number of annual U.S. recalls has ranged from about 10 million in 2008 to the peak in 2016. Stout Risius Ross, a Chicago investment advisory firm, says it expects recalls to level off at 20 million to 30 million for the next few years.
Robert Levine, a senior manager in Stout's Detroit office, says that recalls and other problems related to airbags and their components will continue. He predicts that advanced electronics in vehicles will generate more safety recalls as well.
"Electronic components, from control modules to printed circuit boards and wiring, powertrains and fuel systems also are likely to be involved in recalls," Levine told Fixed Ops Journal.
Two of the largest recalls in 2017 were for problems with a battery sensor on 1.1 million Honda Accords that could let water enter and cause an electrical short, and for a faulty roll rate sensor on about 1 million Ram pickups that could cause the rollover side curtain airbag or seat belt pretensioner to fail to deploy. At the same time, Levine notes, most recalls involved fewer than 10,000 vehicles.