Auto makers selling in the U.S. issued nearly 130 recall campaigns in 2011 affecting some 13 million light vehicles, according to a WardsAuto analysis of federal data.

The numbers suggest a reversal of a troubling 2-year trend that saw the industry’s defect woes approach record levels, while perennial quality leader Toyota absorbed waves of recalls that damaged its reputation.

Toyota launched 13 campaigns in 2011, affecting more than 3.5 million vehicles – more than any other auto maker. It marked the third consecutive year Toyota claims the dubious honor.

But most of Toyota’s recalled vehicles, some 2.1 million, were linked to first-half campaigns. The auto maker’s second-half performance saw just two campaigns, one of which called for a correction to a label citing vehicle-load capacity.

A string of defect problems in 2009 and 2010 had implications for nearly 11.5 million Toyota vehicles. Ill-fitting floor mats and sticky accelerators largely were to blame.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.  fined the auto maker close to $32.5 million for failing to issue the recalls in a timely fashion. The penalties also have spurred Toyota to issue recalls more readily, which has affected its recent high totals.

About 85% of the vehicles implicated in the pedal recalls have been repaired, a rate that exceeds the industry average, Toyota officials tell WardsAuto. The average completion rate for a recall after the first 18 months is just over 70%.

About 85% of high-volume vehicles affected by the floor-mat recall have been repaired. A second batch of lower-volume vehicles requiring the fix are cycling into dealers at a slower rate.

“We’re turning the page and doing everything we can to satisfy our customers,” says Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons.

In 2010, auto makers conducted 136 recall campaigns with implications for some 17.2 million LVs. In 2009, 105 campaigns captured about 18.4 million vehicles.

Those years marked a drastic upswing in activity after recalls in 2008 sunk to 101 campaigns affecting an estimated 7.7 million vehicles.

The industry’s ugliest point remains 2000, when roughly 24.3 million vehicles were linked to safety defects.

General Motors issued the greatest number of recalls in 2011 with 21 campaigns, but they had implications for a relatively modest 455,901 cars and trucks.

The Detroit auto maker saw its 2011 totals pushed up by three campaigns that called back 231,319 units of the newly launched Chevy Cruze compact car.

Ford issued 10 recall campaigns affecting some 3.2 million cars and trucks, making it second only to Toyota in the number of vehicles brought back in 2011.

GM’s cross-town rival saw its totals raised by a pair of recalls involving the F-150 pickup, America’s overall best-selling vehicle for 29 years running. An estimated 2.7 million of the trucks, including a handful of medium-duty models and units approaching 20 years on the road, suffer from a potential short-circuit in their airbags and possible corrosion to fuel-tank straps in cold-weather states.

Among other full-line manufacturers, Chrysler issued eight recall campaigns affecting up to 919,800 vehicles. Two recalls brought back just over 679,000 units of its popular minivans and CUVs, while a campaign targeting more than 200,000 units of its top-selling Dodge Ram pickup accounted for most of the remainder.

Honda launched 11 campaigns affecting an estimated 2 million vehicles, third behind Toyota and Ford for units recalled during the calendar year. A transmission control module defect on a potential 1.5 million of its Accord, CR-V and Element models comprised the bulk of the auto maker’s recall efforts.

Nissan conducted seven recall campaigns, bringing back more than 273,700 vehicles.

Proving once again that no manufacturer is immune to the defect bug, even super-luxury and niche auto makers were subject to recalls in 2011.

High-rolling Rolls Royce called back nearly 600 units of the British auto maker’s recently launched Ghost sedan. Models with turbocharged engines were equipped with a circuit board that could overheat and lead to a potential fire, NHTSA said.

Maserati brought back some 760 of its Gran Turismo and Quattroporte models for a suspension problem. The Italian auto maker said a tie rod could break and lead to a loss of control of the vehicle.

Niche auto maker Lotus issued two recall campaigns affecting nearly 5,100 units of its Elise, Exige and Exige S models. A faulty turn-signal module impacted 52 Elise models, while the remaining vehicles were subject to faulty oil-cooler lines that raised the risk of fire.

WardsAuto examined NHTSA recall data through Dec. 26.

jamend@wardsauto.com