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US vehicle recalls rise to hit 19.5 million vehicles

Last year, manufacturers present in the US market recalled 19.5 million cars and trucks — or 8% of all light vehicles in use, reports Detroit News' Auto Insider, quoting NHTSA data. The number of recalls is rising — reaching 529 in 2003, up from 436 in 2002 and just below the record 541 recalls in 2000, government figures show. In 1990, there were 208 recalls industry-wide.

Recalls relating to potentially serious safety flaws dropped in 2003 to 13.6 million vehicles from 17.6 million in 2002, but recalls prompted by failures to meet federal labelling and other regulations involved a number that increased year on year to 3.4 million vehicles. The US Big Three's 2003 recalls accounted for 12.9m vehicles, while Toyota cut its recalls by 58% to 212,252.

Sources of increasing recalls include tougher federal reporting requirements, the growing complexity of electronic and electrical equipment in vehicles, new equipment whose lifetime durability is hard to simulate in tests, and a proliferation of new model launches.

Since recalls affect vehicles over several model years, they may not reliably indicate manufacturers' current quality levels, but they do show which manufacturers face the largest financial burdens from quality-related failures, past or present – including dealer warranty repair charges. 63% of the GM vehicles recalled last year were 5 to 7 years old.

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