Automotive Recall Accelerator January 2021

Automotive Recall Accelerator January 2021

Stout's Automotive Recall Accelerator brings together unique and important news, analysis, and insights related to automotive recall and vehicle safety for stakeholders across the industry.

January 27, 2021

Recent Developments

In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provided $223,000 in grant funding to the state of Maryland to conduct a two-year pilot program to notify vehicle owners of open recalls during vehicle registration. This program identified more than 1 million open safety recalls in the 4.3 million vehicle registrations renewed. On January 15, 2021, the NHTSA announced $1.3 million in total grant funding will be awarded to California, Ohio, and Texas to notify its registered vehicle owners about open recalls during registration and other points of contact. These grants are expected to provide recall notifications to the 66 million vehicles registered or inspected in these states annually.

  • “The recall notice the State motor vehicle departments will provide to consumers will include a brief description of the defect, the nature of the recall, and information on getting it fixed immediately at a manufacturer’s authorized dealer. States were also encouraged to consider recall notification during driver’s license renewal, emissions checks, or safety inspections.”
  • For more information: NHTSA Announces Three States Awarded DMV Recall Grants

Defective Takata airbags have allegedly caused 18 fatalities and over 400 injuries in the U.S. to date. On January 7, NHTSA issued the fourth report of the Independent Monitor for the Takata Recalls and Coordinated Remedy Program on the State of the Takata Airbag Recalls. The report provides an update on Takata recall completion percentages and strategies proven to accelerate repairs in the Takata recalls.

  • “In 2020, there were nearly 5 million additional repairs of defective airbag inflators, and as of December 2020, thirteen vehicle manufacturers were reporting total completion percentages of at least 70%, seven at least 80%, and one over 90%.”
  • “Seventeen million inflators have yet to be repaired or otherwise accounted for. As underscored by the fact that there were two fatal incidents in 2020, it is paramount that the affected vehicle manufacturers continue to maximize the tools they have developed over the last five years, and identify potential new tools and opportunities for increasing repair rates.”
  • “Over the course of the Monitorship, the affected vehicle manufacturers developed many innovative strategies to accelerate Takata recall completion percentages that had generally not been used in prior recalls…Many vehicle manufacturers have replaced traditional recall administration practices and standard operating procedures with advanced data analytics and proactive recall engagement to locate affected consumers and motivate them to repair defective Takata airbag inflators.”
  • “As an industry, the affected vehicle manufacturers in the Takata recalls have come to realize the importance of effective data and communication strategies that evolve over time based on analysis and research of the unrepaired vehicle owner population.”
  • For more information:

In November 2020, Volvo issued a recall that included over 54,000 vehicles (2001-2003 S80 and S60 vehicles) after a fatality was reported from the airbag inflator exploding in a crash. Owner notifications began on January 4, 2021.

  • The defective airbags were not manufactured by Takata; however, the defect is similar to the Takata airbag defect which involves propellent degradation.
    • “If the propellant tablets are subjected to elevated moisture levels and frequent high inflator temperatures, the tablets can start to decay and form dust particles. When exposed to high temperatures, moisture leaves the tablet and when cooled down is absorbed and accumulated on the tablets surface. This localization of moisture leads to volumetric changes of the tablets surface creating dust over time. Dust increases burn surface area and thereby burn rate. Higher burn rate can result in higher combustion chamber pressure and risk of inflator rupture.”
  • For more information:

NHTSA developed a four-pronged model to address safety risks relating to batteries in electric vehicles with an emphasis on data collection, research, enforcement and safety standards.

  • “NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigations has conducted several investigations and overseen multiple recalls associated with vehicle and house fires caused by issues relating to electric vehicle batteries.”
  • NHTSA plans to: “Examine field incidents: conduct special investigations of electric vehicle crash and non-crash events related to battery safety.”
  • Research is focused on “Battery Diagnostics and Prognostics”, “Battery Management System Cybersecurity” and “High-Voltage Battery Charging Failure Modes and Effects Analysis.”
  • NHTA intends to “Develop a proposal for Phase 1 of Global Technical Regulation (GTR) No. 20 for Electric Vehicle Safety into the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.”
  • For more information: Battery Safety Initiative


In December 2020, NHTSA issued its “2019 traffic fatality data.” Overall, the number of fatalities and injuries from motor vehicle crashes decreased from 2018. Key metrics included, but were not limited to:

  • “There were 36,096 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019. This represents a decrease of 739 (down 2%) from the reported 36,835 fatalities in 2018.”
    • “The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) decreased by 3.5 percent from 1.14 in 2018 to 1.10 in 2019.”
  • “In 2019 an estimated 2.74 million people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, compared to 2.71 million in 2018.”
    • “The injury rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for 2019 remained unchanged at 84.”
  • For more information: NHTSA Releases 2019 Crash Fatality Data
  • NHTSA also issued a preliminary report for January-September 2020 traffic fatality statistics in the US, which indicated an increase in fatalities compared to the same 9-month period in 2019.

The Office of Defect Investigations (ODI) recently provided updated quarterly safety recall and investigation metrics for the fourth quarter of 2020. The number of safety recall campaigns initiated generally remained consistent with prior quarters, however, the number of affected vehicles decreased by approximately 66% from the average of the prior three quarters. Consequently, the average number of affected vehicles per recall decreased significantly in the fourth quarter of 2020.

On January 12, the Department of Transportation (DOT) Bureau of Transportation Statistics issued its 2021 Pocket Guide to Transportation including key transportation statistics for light vehicles in the U.S., which includes highway travel, number of vehicles, miles traveled and injuries and fatalities.

On January 14, the Department of Transportation (DOT) Bureau of Transportation Statistics published a report about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the future of transportation in the U.S.

  • “As expected, roadway travel has proven to be the most resilient as it is least affected by fear of contagion. It has recovered from a peak decline during the shutdown of over 40 percent for several weeks to being within 10 percent of pre-COVID levels during the fall of 2020. Personal vehicle travel offers travelers the ability to control exposure during travel and also avoids traversing terminals where crowds, lines, and check-in/payment interactions introduce exposure risk. However, future personal VMT levels post-COVID will continue to be shaped by competition from other modes, increased teleworking, and other economic stressors.”
  • For more information: COVID-19’s Effects on The Future of Transportation


In August 2020, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) issued a report about low-speed (under 30 mph) personal transportation devices such as bicycles or scooters (“micromobility”). The report addresses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on micromobility, as well as the growth, safety and challenges associated with micromobility.

  • “In New York, bikeshare ridership jumped 67 percent in mid-March compared to 2019, while bike check-outs on Chicago’s Divvy program more than doubled the first two weeks of March compared to last year. However, once lockdowns and mandatory shelter-in-place orders took effect, micromobility use dropped and some systems shut down.”
    • In May 2020, “micromobility providers in Columbus, OH, Oklahoma City, OK, and Washington, DC were reporting the length of e-scooter rides was increasing, suggesting “riders [were] making their full commutes on the vehicles rather than for first-mile, last-mile trips” as had been the norm before the pandemic (Lazo, 2020).”
  • “Since 2010, there have been 207 million trips on shared bikes (pedal and electric-powered) and e-scooters in the United States. A total of 84 million of those trips occurred in 2018 (the latest year for which data is available), double the number taken the previous year. Those 84 million trips included 36.5 million on station-based bike share, 9 million on dockless bikes and 38.5 million on e-scooters (National Association of City Transportation Officials [NACTO], 2019).”
  • “Using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), one study found that between 2014 and 2018 the number of e-scooter injuries and hospital admissions in the U.S. increased 222 percent and 365 percent, respectively. “
  • “Using NEISS data from 2000 to 2017, an analysis of injury patterns and trends associated with e-bikes found there were 3,075 injuries accounting for 0.13 injuries per 10,000 total U.S. emergency department injuries (EDIs).”
  • For more information: Understanding and Tackling Micromobility: Transportation's New Disruptor

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