It’s official: 2014 was a year of record auto recalls

February 13, 2015, 4:00 PM UTC
General Views Ahead Of Domestic Vehicle Sales Figures
A line of 2012 Ford Focus vehicles sit on display at the Uftring Automall in East Peoria, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. Cars and light trucks sold at an average 13.4 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate in the final three months of 2011, the best since April-June 2008, figures from researcher Autodata Corp. show. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Daniel Acker — Bloomberg/Getty Images

There are records that automakers want to set, and records they probably dread setting. Last year, the auto industry got one of the latter.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said more than twice as many vehicles were recalled in 2014 than the previous record of 30.8 million in 2004.

A few very high profile recalls led the record-setting year, including the General Motors (GM) ignition switch scandal and the ongoing recall of Takata airbags. The recall bug also hit Ford (F) and other automakers.

While recalls certainly are bad for a company’s bottom line, the spate of recalls certainly didn’t seem to dent sales much.

Last year sales reached around 16.5 million units, the biggest number of cars sold since before the recession, and early indicators show more growth this year.

GM’s recall of 2.6 million cars beginning in February 2014 to replace faulty ignition switches put the company under a harsh spotlight and may have prompted other automakers to be more vigilant about recalls.

Several investigations of GM, including the company’s own, concluded the automaker should have recalled the cars years before. At least 52 people have died in accidents after the ignition switch unexpectedly turned off the engine, disabling the air bags, power steering and power brakes.

—Reuters contributed reporting to this story.