Changed auto recall accounting methods raise questions - 2/25/13

Federal auto safety regulators are counting what used to be considered multiple recalls as one, undercutting their boast that defect investigations are leading to record numbers of recalls.

When asked about a big decline in recent public investigations, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Strickland told USA TODAY last week that the agency in 2012 got the second-largest number of recalls per investigation in its history.

But a new analysis by the Center for Auto Safety shows the two years NHTSA had the largest and second-largest number of recalls per investigation 2012 and 2008 - would not have been record years under the old method of accounting.

In 2008, NHTSA's defect investigations led to a record 191 recalls, according to agency data. But the same year, the Center for Auto Safety's Clarence Ditlow says 126 recalls were due to wheelchair lifts made by a single company.

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