Five of the top 10 largest auto recalls in U.S. history, including the massive recall for defective Takata airbags, have taken place in the past decade.
"If managers run an auto factory on consistent overtime, recalls stemming from manufacturing errors increase by more than 300 percent," said George Ball, assistant professor of operations and decision technologies at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, in a statement.
The study is the result of research at the Indiana University, University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and Insead business school.
In addition, the study found that when as few as four extra options are added on the production line, it can lead to two extra recalls.
Switching between different tasks to install options within a short period of time adds complexity to workers' job tasks. It also affects quality inspectors, who, "under increased pressure, miss mistakes," the study said.
The research is aimed at reducing future recalls.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the average number of auto recalls per million registered U.S. vehicles has risen steadily from 3.10 in the 1980s to 11.79 from 2000-'10.
Edmunds says: Consumers who are puzzled over record recalls get some insight into the root cause of the problem, courtesy of this new study.