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2019 sees 11 per cent surge in recalls of motor vehicles across EU

Last year the volume of motor vehicle recall alerts across the EU reached 475 – the highest figure for a single year in the 2010s and a significant 11 per cent rise over 2018 (428).

Data from the European Commission’s rapid alert system confirmed that the last ten years have seen the number of recalls rising substantially, albeit unevenly:

  • 2011 (174)
  • 2012 (153)
  • 2013 (176)
  • 2014 (209)
  • 2015 (231)
  • 2016 (412)
  • 2017 (436)
  • 2018 (428)
  • 2019 (475)

On a positive note, 2019 also saw the lowest number of compulsory recalls of the decade (2) with manufacturers overwhelmingly voluntarily recalling vehicles in the interests of public safety. While there is a legal obligation for manufacturers to recall any vehicles with known faults, the high rates of voluntary recall also indicate that manufacturers are taking the potential reputational damage of a high-profile recall seriously and are taking appropriate measures as early as possible.

Of the 475 alerts, the country of origin for nearly 40 per cent was automotive powerhouse Germany (187), over a hundred more than the next highest, which was France with 73. The United States (33), Italy (31), and Japan (30) rounded out the top five. Overall, 29 countries issued recall alerts, the same number as in 2018.

As in previous years, the number one reason for recall was the potential for injuries (416), followed by fire (51), environment (15), burns (4), damage to hearing (1), chemical (1), and security (1). The rise in environmental recalls is note-worthy, as it’s a five-fold increase compared to 2018, with more than half (9) coming from France.

In hindsight, an uptick in environmental recalls shouldn’t necessarily be all that surprising. In the last decade multiple manufacturers, both in the US and EU, have fallen foul of violating regulations around emissions. Coupled with rising consumer concern over air quality and pollution, such scandals have increased the incentive for manufacturers to take under-performing vehicles off the road. Not only has this helped reduce the potential for negative PR, but it also helps convince regulators and consumers alike of the quality of their products.

When looking back at the decade, it’s important to remember that recalls are inevitable in any category and that the increased numbers of notices should be taken as a positive sign. Whatever the product, the process of mass production will always encounter the odd error and an increased number of recalls does not necessarily mean more faulty products, merely that more faulty products are being identified. Thanks to countries across Europe and the wider world operating in harmony, manufacturers are more easily able to recall dangerous vehicles and reduce the risk to consumers.

Although Black Friday and Christmas are behind us, there’s no reason to believe the rush of alerts will slow down with shoppers across the continent looking to take advantage of the January sales for everything from plastic toys to a new SUV.

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