One source of safety difficulties for all automakers is increasing complexity of design. The average car now has about 15,000 parts, coming from a global network of suppliers. Between 60% and 80% of a car’s value comes from suppliers outside the manufacturer, Nieuwenhuis notes.

Manufacturers “want to subcontract more, and that (is) done really to cut costs and simplify the organization, but they are beginning to realize that, by doing that, they lose sight of what goes on, and they lose control, to some extent, of what goes on,” he said.

This means safety issues often lie in the individual parts of a car, rather than how it was assembled. For instance, in February 2013, Germany warned RAPEX it was recalling Citroen C4 Picasso models from France because of a single part of the vehicle, a faulty cable leading to the starter motor.

Andreas Mai, director-smart connected vehicles at U.S.-based computer-networking company Cisco Systems, argues more intricate technology in cars might cause problems now, but it eventually will lead to more thorough quality control.

“With vehicles becoming more connected, you have a wonderful opportunity to do remote diagnostics and see if there is any malfunction in your vehicle’s architecture,” he says. “The more vehicle manufacturers move toward connecting their vehicles and building this capability into their vehicles, we will have, actually, less recalls at the end of the day.”

National authorities should use similar information systems to track safety issues, according to EU Consumer Protection Commissioner Neven Mimica.

“Non-compliant unsafe consumer goods still circulate on the market in Europe,” he says at a briefing in Brussels, noting government market-surveillance authorities should check each time if a dangerous product notified by another country is present within their own territory.

Recalls often can mean months of damage control and public-relations initiatives, but Louise Wallis, head of business development for the U.K.-based Retail Motor Industry Federation, says in some cases a recall can improve a company’s reputation, depending on how it handles the action and its aftermath.

“If they do it right, it can work for them,” she says. “When Toyota did their big recall a couple of years ago, they’ve actually built a lot of public trust out of it because they did a very good job with the recall. They were very organized (and) they kept customers informed.”

Bruce Belzowski, director of automotive analysis at the University of Michigan agrees, adding the increase in product recalls in recent years means concerns about recalls’ effect on consumer loyalty no longer is as serious.

“In the early days of recalls, that might have been a problem, but not anymore. Consumers are used to it now, and they give the manufacturer credit for getting it right.”