Recently, the way the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigates and classifies recalls has been called into question. Although recalls issued following an investigation were said to be at nearly an all-time high last year, some wonder whether that has less to do with improved methods and more to do with new accounting practices.
That’s because the way recalls were grouped together changed about ten years ago. At that time, recalls stemming from a single issue were all considered the same issue. That’s different now, though. According to the Center for Auto Safety, of the 134 investigation-based recalls issued last year, 19 revolved around the installation of a single faulty sunroof that could cause a problem. So even though one component was to blame for a safety hazard, that one component was available in multiple vehicles, and thus the NHTSA is able to claim that 19 recalls were the result of a single NHTSA investigation.
The NHTSA believes that we should be looking to the numbers. Investigations still led to nine million vehicle recalls last year, even if investigations over the past three years were near historic lows. The chief of the NHTSA believes this has to do with evolved data collection and analysis methods.
He also says the NHTSA must be careful not to issue a recall until a full investigation has determined a safety risk and that talks with vehicle producers are common prior to a recall.