Which Manufacturers Have the Most Recalls?

Why Vehicle Recalls Are Important

No one wants to deal with a vehicle recall, but they are often necessary. When a manufacturer discovers an ongoing problem or defect with a vehicle part (including software), they will issue a recall and notify owners to repair or replace the part. Recalls can range from typos on informational decals to large-scale issues, like transmission problems. Keeping up with the current recalls on your vehicle is important as they often deal with defects and issues that affect the vehicle's safe operation.

How Researching Recall Rates Can Help You

Understandably, consumers are concerned about the safety of their cars and vehicles. When it comes to purchasing a new car, truck, or motorcycle, safety features are often a priority for potential buyers. Consequently, buyers look for trusted manufacturers whose vehicles are known for their reliability. They may also research what brands tend to have the most recalls, using that as a barometer for the quality of their vehicles.

Below we review some of the brands with the most recalls and what that means for you, the buyer.

Car Manufacturers with the Highest Recall Rates

Car manufacturers work hard to develop and maintain good reputations with consumers. In fact, many of them even have slogans attesting to the quality and value of their vehicles. For example, the motto "Built Ford Tough" has been used in numerous ad campaigns for their F-Series pickup truck. However, there can be a disparity between the image a manufacturer projects and the rate at which their vehicles are recalled.

According to a 31-year study done by iSeeCars.com, which looked at NHTSA recall data from January 1985 to September 2016, the following seven brands had the highest recall rates:

  • Ford
  • Volvo
  • BMW
  • Hyundai
  • Honda
  • Chrysler (FCA)
  • Volkswagen Group

This study found that the industry average for recalls is 1,115 recalled vehicles for every 1,000 sold. Volkswagen had the highest recall rate of 1,805 per 1,000 cars. This seems a significant jump, but it is also important to consider how manufacturers issue recalls and what for.

According to this same study, though Volkswagen ranked last in overall recall rates, they ranked 3rd with 77.6% of recalls of potentially serious or life-threatening problems (issues that could lead to accident, crash, fire, injury, or death). Meanwhile, Tesla ranked last, with 100% of their recalls being related to serious problems.

The seven manufacturers with the highest percentage of serious recalls are:

  • General Motors, 90.1%
  • Toyota, 91.0%
  • Kia, 92.4%
  • Honda, 94.3%
  • Nissan, 95.2%
  • Hyundai, 96.8%
  • Tesla, 100%

This can tell a car buyer which manufacturers are perhaps more willing to issue recalls, resulting in higher recall rates overall (such as with Volkswagen) and which manufacturers are dealing with more serious recall issues.

If My Car Has a Recall, Is It a Lemon?

Not necessarily. Recalls are fairly common and can be issued for both minor and serious issues. Regardless of the kind of recall, most manufacturers can find a solution for the problem and fix it free of charge for consumers. However, if your car has ongoing issues that the manufacturer can't resolve, it may be a lemon. Furthermore, your vehicle does not have to have an active recall on a part for it to be classified as a lemon. Recalls are not generally issued when a problem only affects a single vehicle.

If you suspect that you have a lemon, you need to keep careful records of your interactions with the manufacturer and any repair work that has been done to the car. You also want to keep track of all related expenses that you have had as a result of the problem (such as towing fees, rental car costs, etc.).

Your next step should be to consult with an attorney experienced in lemon law claims. A skilled lawyer can help you determine if you have grounds for a lemon law claim and can guide you throughout the process.


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