Automakers issued 586 safety recalls for more than 16.2 million vehicles last year, slightly higher than the previous year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Thursday.
Most recalls start with consumer complaints, the NHTSA said in a release. Last year, the agency received 41,912 complaints concerning potential safety defects, compared with 49,417 in 2011 and 65,765 in 2010.
"The role of the consumer in influencing auto recalls cannot be underestimated," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in the release. "Consumers are the lifeblood of the recall process and recalls are often the direct result of a government investigation into consumer complaints."
The agency also conducts searches and investigations to find safety defects, and says it "influenced" the recall of more than 9 million vehicles in 2012.
The number of recalled vehicles rose slightly over 2011’s 15.5 million but was lower than the 2010 total of more than 20 million, according to NHTSA data.
Consumers can get the latest government vehicle safety information and sign up for notifications about recalls online at safercar.com.ALSO: