Monday, January 15, 2007

GM, Ford recalls plummet

Saturday, January 06, 2007
GM, Ford recalls plummet
Toyota also among automakers who saw numbers drop dramatically in 2006; DCX doubles call-backs.
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Safety recalls declined dramatically among automakers in 2006, with substantial improvement by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor North America.

Through November, an estimated 9.2 million vehicles were recalled, nearly half of the 17 million cars and trucks recalled in 2005 and well below the record-breaking 30.8 million recalls in 2004, according to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Ford, which led the industry with 6 million recalls in 2005, saw recalls drop to 1.7 million in 2006. GM saw similar results, recalling 1.6 million cars and trucks, down from 5 million the year before.

Toyota, which has faced nagging questions about its quality after 2.2 million recalls in 2005, saw improvement in 2006, with 766,000 vehicles recalled.

"The automakers have made great strides in quality," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research.

He said the decline was due in part to across-the-board improvement among automakers in quality, as well as efforts to fix problems more quickly. He said early warning systems -- such as GM's OnStar -- were helping cut warranty and recall costs.

DCX bucks Big 3 trend

Bucking the trend among Detroit's Big Three was DaimlerChrysler AG, which saw its recalls more than double to 2.4 million vehicles in 2006.

The German-American automaker had 28 separate recalls in 2006, up from nine in 2005, the company said. Chrysler's largest recall came in August, when it recalled 825,000 2002-06 Jeep Liberty models because of problems with ball joints.

"Things happen. Safety is the priority," said Max Gates, a Chrysler Group spokesman, noting that as common parts are used in more vehicles, they can lead to more recalls.

"We don't know what to expect for 2007."

Among Asian carmakers, Nissan had a number of high-profile recalls and vowed to improve. Nissan recalled more than 780,000 vehicles in 2006.

"We're not satisfied with the number of recalls we had in 2006 and we're working toward reducing that number," spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said Friday.

Pleased, but not satisfied

Ford spokesman Dan Jarvis said the automaker was pleased with its dramatic reduction in recalls.

"It's really due to a concerted effort to improve quality across the board," he said. "The fruits of the effort are paying off."

The bulk of Ford's recalls were due to a decision in August to expand one of the largest safety recalls in automotive history to 1.2 million trucks, vans and SUVs that were prone to engine fires.

GM spokesman Alan Adler said the company had 20 recall campaigns in 2006 -- versus 34 in 2005 -- and only two involved more than 100,000 vehicles.

"It's the lowest number of recalls we've had in seven years," Adler said. "While that's good, we can't let up or relax in trying to reduce or eliminate the need for recalls. It's nothing to declare victory over."

To improve quality, Toyota in August said it would delay some new models.

"We are continuously striving to improve," Toyota spokeswoman Allison Takahashi said.

Not all the recalls are significant; Honda recalled 1.2 million vehicles because its owner manuals didn't have the right telephone number to alert the government of safety issues. The NHTSA is expected to release final recall numbers next week.

You can reach David Shepardson at (202) 662 - 8735 or

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