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Published: Wednesday, 12/29/2010

Auto recalls surge to 20M vehicles, with Toyota at top

WASHINGTON -- Automakers recalled about 20 million vehicles in 2010, led by high-profile recalls by Toyota Motor Corp. that prompted new scrutiny of the auto industry's safety record.

The number of recalls this year was the largest in the United States since 2004, according to an analysis of federal data by the Associated Press. The auto industry set a record with 30.8 million recalled vehicles that year.

Toyota recalled about 7.1 million vehicles this year to fix faulty gas pedals, floor mats that could trap accelerators, defective braking, and engines that stalled.

The safety woes by the world's No. 1 automaker brought more attention to auto safety from government regulators and the public, which filed more than 64,000 complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly double the number in a typical year.

Safety recalls can cost car companies tens of millions of dollars or more and have become more common since 2000, when Congress passed legislation to spot safety defects more quickly after the massive Firestone tire recalls. Legislation to raise fines against car firms, require automakers to meet new safety standards, and empower the government to demand a recall stalled in Congress. Toyota was fined $48.8 million by the government over three recalls dating back to 2004.

Among other automakers, General Motors Co. recalled about 4 million vehicles in 2010 while Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. both recalled more than 2 million cars and trucks. Chrysler Group LLC recalled about 1.5 million vehicles and Ford Motor Co. called back more than 500,000 vehicles. The recall data were preliminary and the government was expected to release final numbers next year.



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