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By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, March 10 (Reuters) - Automakers recalled a record 53.2 million vehicles in 2016 in the United States after a massive expansion of the callback to replace Takata Corp air bag inflators, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Friday.
Under aggressive enforcement by the Obama administration, automakers issued a record 927 recall campaigns, up 7 percent over the previous high in 2015. The previous all-time high of 51.1 million was set in 2015, the department said in a statement.
This is the third straight year that U.S. auto safety recalls have set a new record and topped 50 million. In the prior 20 years, annual U.S. auto recalls ranged from 10.2 million to 30.8 million.
The surge in recalls came as U.S. traffic deaths have jumped dramatically. U.S. traffic deaths rose 8 percent in 2015, the highest annual increase in a half-century, and preliminary estimates show they rose sharply again in 2016.
Last month, Takata pleaded guilty to a felony charge as part of a $1 billion deal with the U.S. Justice Department that included compensation for automakers and victims of its faulty airbag inflators. Ruptures of Takata air bag inflators are linked to at least 16 deaths worldwide.
U.S. regulators have said recalls would eventually affect about 42 million U.S. vehicles with nearly 70 million Takata air bag inflators, making it largest U.S. auto safety campaign ever.
After the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came under criticism in 2014 for failing to detect a deadly ignition switch defect in General Motors Co cars linked to 124 deaths, the agency pressured automakers to recall more vehicles and issued record fines to companies which failed to follow safety rules.
Among those fined since 2014 by the agency are GM, Takata, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Honda Motor Co and child seat manufacturer Graco Children’s Products.
Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Richard Chang