2014 One of Worst Years Ever for Vehicle Safety: NHTSA

Carmakers recalled about 64 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, more than double the previous record set in 2004, according to official government data.

The tally released Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closes the book on one of the worst years ever for automotive safety as defective General Motors Co. ignition switches and exploding Takata Corp. air bags sent millions of drivers to dealerships in search of repairs.

“These figures demonstrate the need for vigorous, effective oversight to remove safety defects from our highways,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement. “When defective vehicles or equipment put Americans’ safety at risk, NHTSA will act.”

Rosekind said last month that 2015 may see an even greater number of recalls as regulators ratchet up the pressure on automakers to more quickly disclose and fix defects. Both the GM and Takata recalls occurred only after years of consumer complaints and multiple deaths that led to congressional hearings critical of NHTSA’s effectiveness at policing the industry.

The GM ignition switches have been linked to 52 deaths in the U.S. so far and the Takata air-bag inflator ruptures are confirmed in four U.S. deaths and being investigated in a fifth.

The final tally for last year shows there were 803 automotive recalls, covering 63.9 million vehicles. About 3.5 million cars and trucks have been recalled so far this year, according to NHTSA data. Before last year, the annual record for recalls was set in 2004, when 30.8 million vehicles were recalled.

Even with 2014’s record tally, an estimated 46 million cars with unfixed recalls were still on the road at the end of the year and as many as 5 million of those changed ownership in 2014, according to Carfax Inc., which tracks vehicle sales and accident history.