U.S. Recalls Expected to Rise as Drivers Become More Alert

Jan 07, 2015 09:00 AM EST | Matt Mercuro

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The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned reporters Tuesday that a recent rise in auto recalls could lead to more issues being discovered in 2015 as drivers become more alert to design problems.

Air bag and ignition switch recalls contributed to an increase in the number of people with car safety concerns, said Mark Rosekind, head of the NHTSA, according to Reuters.

Rosekind has spent the past four years as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, which looks into big transportation accidents.

The safety administration normally gets around 45,000 consumer complaints a year, Rosekind said, but there were 75,000 last year.

"I would expect that we will actually see an increase in recalls" this year, Rosekind told a group of reporters in his first media interview since taking over the agency in mid-December. "This is one of those cases where more recalls could actually mean the system is working better."

NHTSA has been in hot water themselves lately for acting too slowly to prevent dangers involving faulty General Motors ignition switches and Takata air bags, and Rosekind believes they can turn things around.

"I got a couple years, max," said Rosekind, who was appointed by President Barack Obama whose term ends in January 2017. "The defect recall system - we just got to address that."

The Takata defect is particularity concerning. Vehicles are being called back around the country based on concerns that the air bags were rupturing upon deployment and spraying metal shards into vehicles, which has been linked to five deaths so far.

NHTSA has said multiple times that they are dissatisfied with Takata's resistance to call for a national recall.

Though Rosekind didn't offer a solution to the Takata problem, he did say the $35 million limit on civil penalties for carmakers that botch or slow-walk recalls needs to go up.

"It has to at least go to $300 (million)," he said, meaning that the cap could be eliminated altogether, according to Reuters.

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