Report based on the available NHTSA data and is a thorough accounting of all affected passenger cars and light truck vehicles for 2021. OEM voluntary data is not included in this infographic. Data is not authenticated by an independent firm.

Recap of 2021 Recalls Reveals Why the Decrease in Federally-Mandated Recalls Give Us False

While NHTSA-mandated Recalls Fell, the Increase in OEM “Voluntary” Campaigns Illuminates the Hidden Danger

Laguna Hills, CA, May 5, 2022 — In its fifth “State of Recalls” report, Recall Masters, the automotive industry’s leading provider of recall solutions, revealed that more than 21.3 million affected vehicles were accounted for in recalls mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in calendar year 2021. Another estimated 137 “voluntary manufacturer notice” campaigns affected 10.5 million vehicles, with another 361 campaigns affecting an unknown number of vehicles. To clarify, since these “voluntary campaigns” are not yet identified as formal NHTSA recalls, data points such as number of affected vehicles does not require public disclosure. While many vehicles have more than one defect present, the 2021 total of 31.8 million affected vehicle recalls adds to the growing recall crisis. Taking into account unrepaired vehicles from previous years, the tally translates to more than one in four vehicles on US roads with at least one open recall. With an estimated 289.5 million registered vehicles in the country, the threat to drivers and passengers may be greater than ever.

To date, the State of Recalls is the only annual report to publish data about voluntary manufacturer notices. While many incorrectly assume these notices do not pose risk the same risk to drivers as formal NHTSA recall campaigns, data suggest otherwise. In 2021, Recall Masters was able to identify 498 manufacturer voluntary recalls, of which only 137 indicated affected vehicle counts (10.5 million). Deploying its risk-scoring methodology, Recall Masters identified 209 voluntary recalls deemed “high risk” to consumer safety. Only 75 of these notices disclosed the number of vehicles affected, some 6.3 million vehicles. Many of these voluntary campaigns will end up as formal NHTSA recalls, however, with a gap in time between reporting a defect and the investigations that follow, vehicle owners are left vulnerable. Recall Masters tracks a vast number of these notices, but not all of them, as manufacturers are not required by law to disclose beyond NHTSA’s oversight. As vehicles add new technology, it’s become more difficult for NHTSA to keep up with the volume and complexity of investigations.

“Vehicles are more like computers than machines, setting up an impending catastrophe as we deploy self-driving platforms, driver-assisted technologies and electric vehicles,” explains Sean Reyes, Chief Marketing Officer at Recall Masters. “No one envisioned this vehicle technology in 1970 when NHTSA was established and charge with safeguarding the American public from manufacturing defects. The OEMs have operated in accordance to the law, reporting potential risks to the federal agency. It was all designed to promote transparency and cooperation, which has been a huge success for consumers. What’s changed is the complexity and volume of notices as adoption of technologies encompass the full spectrum of vehicle operation. I can only speculate on how it all plays out, but what I do know is that we can only solve problems when we drag them out into the light and work together. We’ve come a long way as an industry to win back the trust of the American public, so I’m optimistic given the response I’ve received from manufacturers and dealers. Driver safety comes first and our State of Recalls Report is a data-driven extension of that commitment.”

The nation is still on the front end of most of these technologies, as the pandemic and disruptions to the global supply chain reduce new vehicle inventory. Access to off-brand recall data is more important, as dealers are selling a record number of pre-owned vehicles. While NHTSA campaign information is public, voluntary notices are only available to franchise dealers of that brand. Consequently, a growing number of vehicles with dangerous defects are being bought and sold in the secondary market, unbeknownst to dealer and consumer. To complicate matters, the used vehicle market is hotter than ever. The lack of new vehicle inventory means that older vehicles will remain in circulation for a longer period of time. When new vehicles fall out of warranty, owners typically defect to independent repair shops, which do not check vehicles for recalls because those repairs can only be done at a franchise dealership authorized to repair the brand.

Communicating directly with vehicle owners is also a challenge. In an agreement with the federal government, the manufacturer is only mandated to communicate to the original owner of the vehicle. Once the original owner sells the vehicle and no longer services with the dealer, it’s a monumental data effort to track down the current owner and notify them of a dangerous recall. With billions of data points aggregated, Recall Masters’ ability to find these second, third, fourth generation owners enables the company to assist consumers, manufacturers and dealers with recall compliance.

“We’re all in this together,” notes Reyes. “Rather than point fingers and assign blame, our role is to identify the shortcomings and present solutions. Our nation has one of the best records for vehicle safety in the world and I’m proud of our contributions and ongoing collaboration with industry leaders. This report is part of the process – complete transparency. Having access to data and technology are essential parts to meeting our industry’s commitment to vehicle and driver safety. We’re pleased to be making a difference.”

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Sean Reyes
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For the purposes of this document, the term “recall” includes NHTSA-mandated recalls and an unaudited list of TSBs, defects and any other voluntary manufacturer notices that are issued by the manufacturer as part of an effort to inform consumers, dealerships and other entities that may own the affected vehicle. The use of the word “recall” should not be interpreted as a formal notice of a recall, either from the manufacturer or NHTSA. This summary is based on the available data collected by Recall Masters and is not a thorough accounting of all affected vehicles for 2021. Data is not authenticated by an independent firm.

To Obtain the 2021 State of Recalls Report in its Entirety

Sean Reyes
888.651.4480 ext. 37

Sean Reyes is the Chief Marketing Officer for Recall Masters.  If you would like to receive “The 2021 State of Recalls” report in its entirety, please complete and submit the contact form on this page.  Media inquiries can also be submitted using the form.  Please share with us how you plan to use the information so that we may provide you with supporting images, quotes or data.  Thank you for your inquiry.

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