With Toyota's massive unintended acceleration recall, you'd think 2009 would be the "Year of the Recall." Think again. Only 15,388,697 vehicles were recalled last year - a far cry from the 37,922,808 vehicles that were recalled in 2000.

So why the sudden surge of recall coverage? Short term memory, poorly designed vehicles or media hype? You could argue that when a car is recalled, it shows some bad engineering by an automaker.  However, the reality is most recalled vehicles will never experience a problem. Cars are recalled for your safety - the 1 in a 1,000,000 chance that a seat belt could come undone during an evasive maneuver. Take Chrysler's latest recall, the wiring in the door of the Dodge Grand Caravan / Chrysler Town & Country could become stripped, short out, and cause a fire. It's unlikely to happen, but Chrysler's playing it safe and recalling every model that could be affected.

There's always been hype around recalls, but 'PedalGate' just amplified things.  No one's really sure what caused the issue to happen, but the U.S. Government has already slapped Toyota with fines. Now every automaker is trying to play it safe and acknowledge any potential problem before an incident occurs. In the old days, there'd be a simple TSB (technical service bulletin) which consumers would rarely notice. Now with the threat of class action lawsuits, automakers don't want to been seen "hiding" defects. They simply recall the vehicle, take a PR hit, and hope for the best. Is it fair? Probably not, but what's the alternative?

Compiled by InsideLine.com, below is a chart of the number of recalls in the past 20 years.  InsideLine heartily points out that despite some years clearly more active than others, there's no obvious trend of recalls on the rise.  But perhaps the media taking the liberty to report more recalls is "the only real trend."

Year # of Recalls Potential # of Affected Vehicles
1990 81           5,483,937 
1991 92           5,006,827 
1992 73           6,261,951 
1993 80           7,473,235 
1994 111           5,271,119 
1995 101         16,151,571 
1996 137         21,826,395 
1997 122         13,744,386 
1998 144         15,954,501 
1999 149         22,657,262 
2000 228         37,922,808 
2001 159         28,630,709 
2002 136         19,470,825 
2003 167         18,575,862 
2004 220         29,835,327 
2005 152         17,948,511 
2006 157         10,974,000 
2007 144         13,499,501 
2008 168           9,039,333 
2009 175         15,388,697 

Gallery: Media loves to hype recalls - missing the big picture

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