FCA Vehicles Top Safety Complaints Study; Lauded Electrics Don't Fare Well, Either (UPDATE)

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
fca vehicles top safety complaints study lauded electrics don t fare well either

Update: It was brought to our attention by a spokesperson for FCA that iSeeCars.com’s study includes complaints about parts availability for recall campaigns, which in and of themselves are not necessarily safety issue complaints. These complaints can skew the per-model results in a big way. While iSeeCars works out the data, take the results below with a grain of salt as they will more than likely change. —Mark

Update 2: iSeeCars retabulated the data for the below-mentioned study without recall parts availability complaints and came up with the same top 10 results. Still, the fact remains, not all NHTSA complaints are verified; anyone can submit a complaint, regardless of whether they own said vehicle. In 2010, Toyota ran into problems verifying complaints from NHTSA’s database, and Tesla more recently had issues with one particularly problematic complainer … from Australia.

Safety complaints come in all forms, some of them frivolous, but minor annoyances usually fail to make the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

When all safety complaints leveled against a model are weighed against the volume of vehicles sold, potential customers are left with a clearer picture of what headaches they might expect after signing on the dotted line. Meanwhile, automakers could realize they have a problem to fix.

In a recent study based on NHTSA complaints, one brand showed why quality control is key to keeping a loyal customer base, and how problems in the past can haunt a company for years.

In creating its ranking, automotive data company iSeeCars.com analyzed half a million NHTSA safety complaints for car models manufactured between 2005 and 2016, leaving out vehicles that were no longer in production in that final year.

The model with the worst rate was the Chrysler 300, logging 66.7 safety complaints per 10,000 vehicles sold, followed close behind by the Jeep Grand Cherokee and now-defunct Chrysler Town & Country. Jeep’s Wrangler and Toyota’s Prius ranked fourth and fifth on the list, with complaints amounting to double the industry average of 26.8.

Of the Chrysler 300’s complaints, 18 percent were related to electrical gremlins. The Prius saw its owners complain about exterior lighting, brake issues and acceleration problems 48 percent of the time. Meanwhile, 17 percent of Wrangler gripes arose from the vehicle’s fuel system, with “ gas spraying everywhere during refueling” being a noted complaint.

For Tesla, 18 percent of Model X complaints involved vehicle speed control. Its sedan sibling, the Model S, saw a whopping 42.2 percent of complainants pointing a finger at its suspension. That’s not actually surprising, given a recent controversy.

Even if a manufacturer fixes the issue, a large number of complaints early on in a model’s run can still sink its rating when averaged over time. Statistics, of course, are notoriously cold and uncaring.

Rounding out the top 10 most complained-about models were the Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Edge, Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion and Nissan Murano. Due to a high number of complaints across multiple models, Jeep ranked first in gripes as a brand, followed by Chrysler in the runner-up position. Technology powerhouse Tesla showed up in the number three spot, while Dodge and Mini came in fourth and fifth.

On the flip side of the coin, a certain Korean company is smiling. The Kia Forte and Soul ranked first and second on the list of best performers, logging just 3.5 and 6.5 safety complaints per 10,000 vehicles sold. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 and Nissan Sentra made up the rest of the top five. Ford’s F-150 came in sixth, tied with the Sentra, with 9.3 complaints per 10,000 vehicle sold.

iSeeCars.com points out the inclusion of three popular full-size pickups on the list could paint an inaccurate picture of the models’ actual complaint rate. Many pickups are bought for fleet use, where a safety complaint will likely end up on the desk of a manager, not the NHTSA. Such vehicles are also more likely to see regular scheduled maintenance.

While those models can boast the most, the Subaru Forester, Lexus RX, Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Rogue each recorded a complaint rate of less than half the industry average. Among brands, Porsche, Subaru, Lexus, Land Rover and Volvo were the least complained-about nameplates.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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  • 2012JKU 2012JKU on Feb 11, 2017

    Have a 2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum AWD with 46k km on it. Only one minor problem with a faulty shift control module that was replaced under warranty. Had a 12 Wrangler before with only 1 minor issue. Problems with FCA vehicles are overrated IMHO.

  • Orange260z Orange260z on Feb 12, 2017

    If I remember correctly, the Chrysler 300s (and other Chrysler products) that have been recalled all use the ZF "Monostable" electronic shifter. As an owner, I quickly got used to it and never thought about it again, but I can understand how rental car drivers can struggle with this conventional-looking but unconventional-operating shifter system. I don't like the Chrysler fix, which I believe will force "Park" if the door is open, and make it impossible to intentionally creep forward or backward with an open door. My 2013 300S 3.6L has had only a couple of minor issues, none safety-related. I've had the common climate control issue, a failed trunk latch and sensor, and a defective driver's side window seal. The window seal was frustrating because it took Chrysler nearly six months to get a replacement part during which time I couldn't operate the window. The assembly quality of the car is questionable with panel gaps you can stick a finger through, but overall it has been quite reliable and a great car to own. My friend bought a Honda Accord at the same time and has had more issues. My e90 BMW visited the dealer more times most months than the Chrysler has in 4 years.

  • Wolfwagen I see my comment was deleted (BTW nice way to censor) so i will say it again:GTFO here with the pseudo "wealth distribution" BS. A crime is a crime is a crime.Its a slippery slope, what happens next, Jail a rich guy when he kills a pedestrian and let the poor guy who kills a pedestrian walk? What about if the poor guy is a crappy driver and has the record to prove it then what?Or we could go crazy and just institute the death penalty across the board for every driving infraction. That will make people better drivers or stop driving altogether which will make the greenies happy (damm it I just gave them an idea - SOB!!!)
  • Wolfwagen No. Bring back the J80 with an inline six and reduced electronics (i.e. no giant touch screen) and they will probably sell like hotcakes
  • David S. " test vehicles sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic."??? Test vehicles are programmed by humans, HUMANS sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic, Duh!!
  • Frank The last guy was doing fine, this is a sales emergency that they're hoping Tim can fix. They want to hang onto the crazy margins from the covid era, which now in the face of abundant inventory, insane interest rates and inflation are a long distant wet dream. Its time to start offering value again, cash on the hood and 0% financing. Move the metal!
  • Gimmeamanual The new Wrangler isn't that new, it's still a JL and so is limited to what the platform can handle as far as addressing on-road handling. One thing Jeep should have done is increase the length of the front lower control arms by using the ones THEY ALREADY SELL with the Mopar lift. That 1/4" makes a big difference.