WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The number of vehicles recalled by automakers dropped 30 percent in 2008 compared to the previous year, with a preliminary total of 10.2 million vehicles recalled during 2008.

However, according to the Detroit News, this decline came as the total number of recall campaigns rose more than 9 percent -- a record 642 compared to 588 in 2007. Recalls associated with investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration climbed to a record 233 -- up from 98 in 2007.

Safety experts told the Detroit News that the decrease in the number of vehicles recalled was attributable to improved vehicle quality and to the NHTSA-administered monitoring system that flags vehicle problems early. Congress mandated the NHTSA database in 2000 after the major Firestone tire recall.

"Early-warning data clearly is something that's affecting everybody's consciousness on monitoring for recalls," Sean Kane, president of Massachusetts consulting firm Safety Research and Strategies, told the Detroit News.

According to preliminary figures for 2008:

-- Ford Motor Co. recalled 1.6 million vehicles, down from 5.5 million in 2007.

-- Chrysler LLC recalled 360,000 vehicles, down from 2.2 million in 2007.

-- General Motors Corp. recalled 1.9 million, up from 538,000 in 2007.

-- Toyota Motor Corp. recalled 833,000 vehicles, up from 640,000 in 2007.

-- Honda recalled 797,000 vehicles, up from 550,000 in 2007.

-- Nissan recalled 581,000 vehicles, down from 1.3 million in 2007.