The Best of the Worst: Automaker Recall Rate Rankings

the best of the worst automaker recall rate rankings

Automakers recalled a record-breaking 51.26 million vehicles last year, with the callbacks stemming from either a highly commendable abundance of caution, or a disgraceful, wide-spread lapse in quality control.

The reality lies somewhere in the middle, but an analysis of over 31 years of recall history has shed some light on which automotive manufacturers have made the best out of a bad situation.

A study published by examined recall data collected by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration from January 1985 to September 2016. That data was contrasted with new vehicle sales by manufacturer and found, wait for it, Volkswagen to have the highest recall rate of any brand. Not surprised?

Keep in mind that the diesel crisis hasn’t technically resulted in VW Group officially recalling anything yet — so the bought-back diesels aren’t a part of this data set. Still, that didn’t stop Volkswagen from receiving a recall rate that was actually higher than the number of cars sold. This can be attributed to same vehicle being recalled multiple times for different reasons. Surprised now?

Volkswagen Group wasn’t alone. Chrysler (now paired with Fiat), Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Volvo, and Ford were all higher than the industry average for the number of recalled vehicles.

Being a lower volume manufacturer producing the same car with only minor updates for most of its history may have given Porsche an edge, as it had the lowest overall recall rate. In a not-too-distant second place was Mercedes-Benz, a company that shares little with Porsche beyond the fatherland and a high attention to detail.

Porsche was quick to respond when it came to dealing with recalls — iSeeCars listed it as one of the brands most likely to issue a recall voluntarily.

General Motors had the best recall timeliness of the major automakers. “Despite the well-known ignition switch recall in 2014, GM’s recalls have historically occurred within the first three years after production,” said iSeeCar CEO Phong Ly.

Tesla, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo were also very good in taking care of business in a prompt manner when the time came. Mazda was not. While this isn’t particularly damning in itself, Mazda’s recall rate has crept upward in the last few years. However, the same could be said of the golden boy, Porsche, as it has begun producing more varied automobiles and started sharing parts with Volkswagen after its 2012 acquisition.

Ideally, a company wants to catch a fault and do their own recall before the NHTSA gets involved. It’s always better to nip something in the bud before consumers start getting publicly angry and news outlets start talking about how your product set someone’s garage on fire.

Ford might disagree with this motto, however, since they were dead last in terms initiating recalls before the NHTSA got around to it. Honda and Chrysler did not do so hot in this respect either. Meanwhile, Tesla managed to beat the NHTSA to the punch every single time, giving it a perfect record. While there is no way that can possibly last, the company can strive to keep as good of a record as Porsche and Jaguar on the matter.

The NHTSA has made it their mission to improve the recall system after criticism of their delayed response in recalling 2.6 million General Motors vehicles for ignition switch defects. Don’t expect recalls to slow down, even if every automotive brand and parts supplier doubles its efforts.

One thing you can be sure of is that Volkswagen’s recall ranking will stay atrocious for at least one more year.


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  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Nov 06, 2016

    I would not be so quick to pat Porsche on the back. They allowed many a customer to fork over $20K for IMS bearing failures, only to fight tooth and nail against covering the repairs. And even when they finally acquiesced they still put enough obstacles in place to keep the actual number of covered repairs to a minimum.

  • MazdaThreeve MazdaThreeve on Nov 07, 2016

    Wow. Look at Honda. So they're near the worst on recall percentages, and have to be dragged out by the feds at nearly the same rate as Ford does. What was that about KIA and Hyundai being junk again?

  • Inside Looking Out Cadillac now associates with rap music. In the past it was all about rock'n'roll. Rap is environmentally friendlier than rock'n'roll.
  • EBFlex This is nothing compared to what Ford is doing. The fake lightning is seeing massive price increases for 2023. Remember how they self pleasured themselves about the fake lightning starting under $40k? In 2023, the price jumps by a very Tesla like $7,000. And that’s not the biggest price jump. And much less talked about, the government fleet discounts are going away. So for a basic 3.3L Explorer, the price is jumping $8,500. S basic F150 is also now $8,500 more. Im sure the same people that complained about the oil companies making “obscene profits” will say the same thing about Ford.
  • Bobbysirhan Sometimes it seems like GM has accepted that the customers they still have are never going to come to their senses and that there aren't any new dupes on the horizon, so they might as well milk their existing cows harder.
  • Buickman how about LowIQ?
  • Gemcitytm Corey: As a native SW Ohioan, Powel Crosley, Jr. has always been an object of fascination for me. While you're correct that he wanted most of all to build cars, the story of the company he created with his brother Lewis, The Crosley Corporation, is totally fascinating. In the early 20's, Crosley was the nation's leading manufacturer of radio receivers. In the 1930's, working from an idea brought to him by one of his engineers, Crosley pioneered the first refrigerator with shelves in the door (called, of course, the "Shelvador"). He was the first to sell modular steel kitchen cabinets (made for him by Auburn in Connersville). He brought out the "IcyBall" which was a non-electric refrigerator. He also pioneered in radio broadcasting with WLW Radio in Cincinnati (wags said the calls stood for either "Whole Lotta Watts" or "World's Lowest Wages"). WLW was one of the first 50,000 watt AM stations and in 1934, began transmitting with 500,000 watts - the most powerful station in the world, which Mr. Crosley dubbed "The Nation's Station". Crosley was early into TV as well. The reason the Crosley operation died was because Mr. Crosley sold the company in 1945 to the AVCO Corporation, which had no idea how to market consumer goods. Crosley radios and TVs were always built "to a price" and the price was low. But AVCO made the products too cheaply and their styling was a bit off the wall in some cases. The major parts of the Crosley empire died in 1957 when AVCO pulled the plug. For the full story of Crosley, read "Crosley: Two Brothers and a Business Empire That Transformed the Nation" by Rutsy McClure (a grandson of Lewis Crosley), David Stern and Michael A. Banks, Cincinnati: Clerisy Press, ISBN-13: 978-1-57860-291-9.