THE U.S. prides itself on having the world's most efficient industry. If that is the case, why have auto manufacturers, long regarded as star performers, lately been recalling cars at a faster rate than they have been building them? Last week General Motors called back 1,100,000 vehicles—1965 and 1966 Pontiac cars and late-model Chevrolet and G.M.C. trucks, buses and highway tractors—because of possible defects in the braking systems. Only three weeks earlier, G.M. had recalled a record 4,900,000 vehicles, including 2,500,000 Chevrolets built between 1965 and 1968. Although less than 5% of all autos involved usually turn out to be defective,...

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