DETROIT-Nearly 11 million vehicles were recalled in the U.S. in 1993, a 17-year high, but this doesn't necessarily mean quality is decreasing. The recall number is up from 10.1 million in 1992 and 9.7 million in 1991, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compiled by Auto Service Monitor, an Ohio-based consulting company.
More complex auto technology and the popularity of a consumer hot line have contributed to the rise, said Bill Boehly, NHTSA associate administrator.
In addition, more detailed government investigations of consumer complaints and improved self-monitoring by the auto industry also are factors, he said.
``If someone is looking over your shoulder, we all have a tendency to make sure we're doing the right thing,'' he added. ``They (automakers) recognize we're carefully monitoring the safety of motor vehicles so they, too, are looking inward.''
``You are seeing recalls today you would not have seen yesterday because manufacturers have changed their attitude about safety,'' said Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety, a public interest group.
``It's not because they have undergone some moral change or change in values. It's simply because the marketplace dictates you take care of problems today,'' Mr. Ditlow said. ``Manufacturers have always been responsive to what sells vehicles, and today, safety sells vehicles.''
General Motors Corp., which builds more vehicles than any other company, was first, with 4 million vehicles recalled last year. Next was Ford Motor Co., with 3 million vehicles recalled, followed by American Honda Motor Co. Inc., with 966,500.
Roughly a third of all recalled vehicles go unrepaired, Mr. Boehly said. From 10-30 percent of all traffic accident reports list a safety defect as a contributing factor to the accident, Mr. Ditlow added.