Ford Cruise Control Recall Led Year of Record Vehicle Recalls

Vehicles recalls increased more than 25 percent in 2007.  Overall, 14.2 million vehicles were recalled last year, up from 11.2 million in 2006, according to preliminary figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The increase is mainly due to Ford Motor Co., which recalled 5.5 million vehicles in 2007.  Most of the <"">Ford recalls where due to a cruise-control-deactivation switch problem the automaker has been dealing with for years.  GM also recalled 537,992 vehicles as of December 21st, Honda Motor Co. recalled 547,215 vehicles, and Volkswagen of America recalled 1.5 million vehicles, mostly by expanding a parts recalls used in multiple vehicles.  Final recall figures won’t be available until later this month.

“It can take several years for defects to show up,” said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategy Inc., a Massachusetts-based vehicle-safety analysis and advocacy firm.  “Cars are lasting longer.  Twenty years ago, you were lucky if a car made it to 100,000 miles.  Today, that’s the expectation.”  Ford spokesman Dan Jarvis said, “The vast majority of vehicles recalled were older models introduced a decade ago or even earlier.”  In August, Ford recalled 3.6 million vehicles built between 1992 and 2004 because of a cruise-control switch linked to engine fires.  Since 1999, Ford has recalled 10.4 million vehicles with the switch, the largest U.S. recall ever for a single defective part.

GM had 18 recall campaigns in 2007 covering 537,992 vehicles in all.  Volkswagen of America has had a major jump in recalls in the last two years, largely because of a single defective part used across many vehicles.  The recalls this year included 790,000 vehicles for a faulty brake-light switch.  The part, used in several vehicles, was from a single supplier and shows how extensive a recall from one faulty part can be, VW spokesman Keith Price said.

Last month, Nissan North America recalled 696,600 Altima and Sentra sedans that had a faulty engine part that could overheat and cause the engine to stall.  But perhaps the biggest news among Asian automakers was the problems Toyota Motor Corp. had with reliability and recalls. The Japanese company this month recalled about 10 percent of its Tundra pickup trucks and earlier this year recalled more than 500,000 of its Sequoia SUVs.  These recalls are significant because Toyota has been pushing hard to break into the highly profitable large-vehicle market.  In October, Consumer Reports demoted Toyota to third from first in its vehicle reliability rankings, dropping the Camry, Tundra, and Lexus GS from its list of recommended vehicles. Consumer Reports said it would no longer automatically recommend redesigned Toyota vehicles.  “This is a big issue for us,” Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong said, adding that Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe has made it his highest priority to restore quality.  The first vehicle to go through the more rigorous “Customer First” process is the Toyota Highlander SUV, which has experienced no recalls to date. Kwong said the company has hired more engineers and built more prototypes prior to launching vehicles.

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