Due to the nature of mass production, a faulty part on a car can cause a recall numbering in the tens to hundreds of thousands of vehicles, even if not all of the cars in the recall are defective and need a fix. "Better safe than sorry" is the mantra. But over the past few years, automakers have learned how to perform recalls much more efficiently by employing technology that allows them to trace parts back to their sources, Automotive News reports. An extreme result of this is when General Motors used bar codes and radio frequency tags to trace defective Chevrolet Volt parts back to their source and limited a US recall to just four vehicles.

That recall was initiated after a European Volt owner brought the car in for a repair under warranty. A faulty brake valve was the problem, and instead of recalling all Volts that might be affected, GM searched its parts database and traced the faulty brake valves back to just four cars in the US.

Nissan has a similar track-and-trace system that is referred to within the company as "Bread Crumbs," named in reference to the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. Parts that are tagged and traced are assigned to specific engineers, who track warranty cost, customer complaints and any reported defects, Automotive News reports.

Other automakers are using the same or similar practices to limit recalls to the vehicles that actually are defective. Not only should these smaller, more specific recalls help make vehicles safer, but it should lessen the monetary impact recalls have on the auto industry - which spends $45 billion to $50 billion on them per year.

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