Complaints to NHTSA About Automotive Defects Spiked in 2010

The Year of the Recall is about to draw to an end. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed complaints about automotive defects spiked this year, helped in part by Toyota’s high-profile recalls.

“This stuff just skyrocketed,” Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of Edmunds, told the L.A. Times. “Toyota was the trigger, but consumers are more sensitive and have more knowledge about how to complain.”

Through December 14 of this year, the NHTSA had received over 40,000 consumer complaints about various automotive problems — over four times the volume in years past. The only time during which complaints were higher was during President Carter’s administration. Although the actual number of complaints increased sharply this year, the complaint-to-vehicle ratio is still extremely small considering there are over 250 million vehicles on U.S. roadways today.

According to, Toyota, rather unsurprisingly, had the worst complaints-per-100,000 vehicle ratio with 87 and a full quarter of the complaints logged. Nissan came in second with 62 complaints per 100,000 vehicles, with Volkswagen in third at 58. The industry average was 47 complaints per 100,000 vehicles.

“People are now more aware that there is an agency called NHTSA and that you can complain to it,” Clarence Ditlow, executive director at the Center for Auto Safety, told the L.A. Times. “Complaints are a good thing.”

Complaints about cars are indeed a good thing as it lets the NHTSA and other consumers know that there is something potentially wrong with the vehicle. If enough consumers complain about it, NHTSA and/or automaker might take action to correct the problem as the agency reviews every complaint, looking for a pattern to determine if an investigation is warranted.

This greater awareness of the NHTSA and consumers’ ability to complain led to more recalls as well. Nearly 19 million vehicles were recalled in 2010, the highest level since 2004 when almost 31 million vehicles were recalled.

Source: L.A. Times

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