(Adds details of Takata recall, background on program, Transportation Department statement)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday it is funding a pilot program that will notify drivers in the state of Maryland if there are open, uncompleted recalls at the time that they register their vehicles.
The government says only about 70 percent of auto safety recalls have led to repairs or resolution of the problematic issues.
Automakers, who have recalled record numbers of vehicles in recent years, have struggled to convince millions of owners of vehicles with potentially faulty Takata air bags to get the necessary repair work done.
The number of U.S. vehicle recall campaigns hit a record high in 2016 for a third consecutive year, with 927 separate recalls affecting 53.2 million vehicles.
That total was bloated by recalls of Takata air bag inflators, which can rupture and send deadly metal fragments flying, and are already linked to 18 deaths and more than 180 injuries worldwide. Those recalls will eventually cover about 125 million inflators, representing the largest single auto safety recall ever for a single issue.
As of June, more than 65 percent of 46.2 million previously recalled Takata inflators in the United States had not been repaired.
Congress gave NHTSA the authority to provide grant funding for up to six states that agreed to pilot programs to notify consumers of open recalls on their vehicles at the time of registration, but Maryland was the only state to apply.
“This first-in-the-nation grant will serve as an example to the rest of the country as we continue to work across government to reach consumers in new and creative ways with potentially life-saving information about their vehicles,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement.
Recalls jumped in 2014 after Congress held a series of hearings about major auto safety issues involving General Motors Co ignition switches and Takata air bags. In 2014, a record 63.95 million vehicles were recalled in the United States — more than twice the previous record set in 2004.
Some automakers, including Honda Motor Co, whose vehicles account for 17 of the 18 reported Takata-related deaths to date, are taking additional steps to locate vehicles with the potentially dangerous inflators.
Editing by Bernadette Baum