Lowest Recall Rates & Serious Recalls

safety recallPorsche leads all automakers in having the fewest vehicles recalled per each 1,000 units sold over the last three decades, according to a study.

Automobile recalls continue to make the news. Unfortunately, far too many drivers seem to be tuning out and are ignoring recall notices issued for their vehicles.

According to data compiled by J.D. Power, more than 45 million vehicles that were the subject of safety recalls issued between 2013 and 2015 had yet to be brought in for covered repairs by summer’s end. This includes a disturbingly high number of models recalled to fix potentially deadly faulty airbag inflators manufactured by auto supplier Takata.

In October 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed an 11th U.S. fatality linked to vehicles having Takata airbags. Though the vehicle in question – a 2011 Honda Civic – had long been the subject of a recall to replace them, its owner had neglected to take the car in for the necessary repairs. And this was despite the automaker’s “Def Con Level 5″ warning back in June that owners should stop driving affected vehicles altogether until they could be repaired.

Though it’s encouraging that car companies and the federal government have become increasingly proactive with regard to safety-related recalls, it’s still annoying to have to bring a vehicle back to the dealership to correct what in some cases are multiple defects that should have been addressed before the car or truck was initially brought to market.

A recent study was conducted to analyze recall data as far back as 1985 to determine which brands historically recall the lowest percentage of vehicles, relative to those sold in a given year, and which brands’ recalls pose the most dire consequences, among other metrics.

In the study, Porsche was found to have the lowest recall rate among all automakers in the U.S. at 531 cars per 1,000 sold, with the Volkswagen Group having the highest recall rate at 1,805 per 1,000 sold (some of its models were recalled more than once during the period in question). This doesn’t yet account for the number of vehicles VW will have to repair or buy back because of its diesel scandal.

Lowest/Highest Recall Rates Since 1985:

    Porsche – 531 recalls per 1,000 sold
    Mercedes-Benz – 624 recalls per 1,000 sold
    Kia – 788 recalls per 1,000 sold
    Tesla – 936 recalls per 1,000 sold
    Mazda – 955 recalls per 1,000 sold
    BMW – 1,196 recalls per 1,000 sold
    Hyundai – 1,266 recalls per 1,000 sold
    Honda – 1,307 recalls per 1,000 sold
    Chrysler (FCA) – 1,422 recalls per 1,000 sold
    Volkswagen Group – 1,805 recalls per 1,000 sold

To muddy the waters as far as consumers are concerned, researchers say that while 88.1% of all affected models are recalled for defects that could result in death, injury, a crash, or a fire, some are called back for what are comparatively minor issues. For example, a couple of years ago Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ models were recalled to replace a few errant pages in their owners’ manuals.

According to the data, Volvo recalled the fewest number of its vehicles over the last three decades because of “severe” defects that could cause death, injury, a crash, or a fire – and at that it’s still a disturbingly high 71%. At the other end of the list, 100% of all Teslas sold have been recalled due to a potentially hazardous problem. Volkswagen, which recalled cars at the highest rate, fares better here, placing third fewest with 77.6% of its vehicles being recalled to prevent harmful consequences.

Fewest/Most Recalls With Potential For Death, Injuries, Crashes, or Fires Since 1985:

    Volvo – 71.0%
    Mercedes-Benz – 75.1%
    Volkswagen – 77.6%
    Chrysler (FCA) – 83.2%
    Subaru – 84.5%
    Kia – 92.4%
    Honda – 94.3%
    Nissan – 95.2%
    Hyundai – 96.8%
    Tesla – 100.0%

When a recall is issued the manufacturer is required to contact every owner of record for that particular model by mail. However, second or third owners usually fall through the cracks, which makes it even more important for automakers to uncover and rectify safety-related defects in a timely manner. General Motors had the highest percentage of recalls issued within the first three years of ownership among mainstream automakers at 74.7%, while Mazda was the least timely among all manufacturers at just 48.4%. Tesla came in first, but this was based on just nine recall campaigns for fewer than 100,000 units sold, versus 4,019 notices issued by all of GM for nearly 135 million models delivered to consumers.

Timeliness is really a measure of how the car manufacturer handles recalls internally. Automakers know there are bound to be recalls, and how quickly they act has more to do with their process to assess reports of possible safety issues, conduct internal research or tests, and determine a course of action.

Most/Least Timely Recalls Within First Three Years Since 1985:

    Tesla – 100.0%
    Porsche – 86.2%
    Jaguar / Land Rover – 82.9%
    General Motors – 74.7%
    Nissan – 74.7%
    Subaru – 55.6%
    Honda – 55.4%
    Toyota – 55.0%
    Mitsubishi – 53.7%
    Mazda – 48.4%

Finally, there’s the issue of which automakers are the most proactive in terms of issuing voluntary recalls, versus those conducted as a result of NHTSA-conducted investigations. Again, Tesla leads the pack with 100% of its relatively small number of recalls being voluntary, which any business school graduate could assume would be critical for a new company undergoing as much ongoing media and investor scrutiny as the Silicon Valley EV maker. Ford was ranked last under this category in the report, with only two out of every 18 of the automaker’s recall campaigns conducted without NHTSA’s intervention.

Most/Least Recalls Initiated By Automaker Versus NHTSA Since 1985:

    Tesla – 100.0%
    Porsche – 91.3%
    Jaguar / Land Rover – 76.2%
    Kia – 65.6%
    Subaru – 65.6%
    Volvo – 44.0%
    Mercedes-Benz – 41.6
    Chrysler (FCA) – 37.5%
    Honda – 35.5%
    Ford – 29.6%

Not surprisingly, upscale brands with a smaller owner base tend to fare better with regard to recalls than do larger mainstream makers, with Tesla, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar / Land Rover among the leaders in multiple categories. No matter what kind of vehicle you own, it’s imperative to take measures to have a safety-related defect corrected as soon as possible after receiving notice.

Contact your local dealership immediately to set up a service appointment (if the recall involves the vehicle’s tires, an owner is limited to a 60-day period after notification to have the issue addressed). Owners shouldn’t be charged for recall-related repairs.

Unfortunately, with so many makes and models being recalled these days, getting a service appointment to have a specified repair taken car of at a local dealership may take some time. To make matters worse, replacement parts (especially Takata-supplied airbags), may be scarce at any given time. If you’re on a waiting list for one or more high-profile recall-related repairs, you may want to limit driving it – or park the car altogether if possible – until the work is completed.

If you’re a second or third owner, or are considering buying a used car or truck, NHTSA maintains a free online database at safercar.gov/vinlookup/ that allows consumers to determine if a specific model from a given year is at risk because of uncorrected safety-related recalls.

Users simply search for issued recalls by entering a model’s vehicle identification number. Also known as a VIN, it’s both noted on a car or truck’s title and can be found at the dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle, or on the driver’s side door on the door post. The system will list any unresolved recalls, or if there are none, will simply report, “No Open Recalls.”

Owners can also register their vehicles with NHTSA and be contacted automatically if a safety issue is discovered via a downloadable app for Apple iOS and Android phones. The app also enables motorists to submit complaints to NHTSA regarding possible safety problems with their vehicles.