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July 9, 2014

Auto recalls break single-year US record with six months to go

WASHINGTON — With six months left in 2014, automakers have already recalled more vehicles in the United States than in any other year on record.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists U.S. recalls for 37.5 million cars this year, topping the 30.8 million record set in 2004, according to the most recent preliminary data on the agency's website. General Motors accounts for about two-thirds of the total.

The tally in the U.S. will probably rise soon as Japan's three biggest carmakers finish an evaluation of their worldwide fleets for faulty air-bag inflators made by Takata Corp. Through June, about 8.1 million new vehicles had been sold in the U.S.

Historically, recalls range from 10 million to 20 million U.S. vehicles each year, according to the NHTSA database. There were just under 22 million last year and 16.4 million in 2012. Besides 2004, there's been only one other year in which the tally passed 30 million, in 1981.

The official 2014 numbers from NHTSA won't be released until next year.

This year's record run largely began when Detroit-based GM began calling back 2.59 million small cars in February to fix a faulty ignition switch that has been linked to at least 13 deaths in crashes. Revelations that GM knew of switch failures for more than a decade before acting sparked congressional investigations, a $35 million civil fine and a Department of Justice criminal probe.

The controversy also spurred a comprehensive safety review by GM of all its cars, leading the largest U.S. automaker to recall 25.7 million U.S. vehicles in total this year for a variety of fixes ranging from ignitions to door wiring to seat- belt retractors.

GM's recalls eclipse Ford Motor Co.'s previous single-year record for a company of 23.3 million in 2001. With 64.6 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads, according to Experian, GM is calling back the equivalent of 40 percent of its vehicles.

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