The automakers with the best and worst recall rates

According to a report from automotive research firm iSeeCars.

This Tuesday, April 1, 2014, file photo, shows a key in the ignition switch of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt in Alexandria, Va. More than 1,100 claims were filed in the week before the Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, deadline to seek payments from the General Motors ignition switch compensation fund, with 51 death and 77 injury claims being granted. GM was aware of faulty ignition switches on Cobalts and other small cars for more than a decade, but it didn't recall them until 2014. Molly Riley/AP

Woburn-based automotive research firm iSeeCars reviewed millions of recalls issued over the past 31 years to determine how automakers respond to vehicle recalls.

For the report, iSeeCars looked at NHTSA’s recall data for each manufacturer from January 1985 to September 2016, calculating recall rate by dividing the total number of vehicles affected by a recall by the number of new vehicles sold during the same period. iSeeCars found the industry average during this 31-year period was 1,115 vehicles recalled per 1,000 vehicles sold. (Some vehicles were recalled for multiple reasons.) Eleven out of 18 automakers had recall rates below this average.

“It’s interesting that over the long term, there’s no direct correlation to manufacturer size, country of origin, or longevity of U.S. sales, which points to the way recalls are handled as something very specific to the auto manufacturer,” said Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars, in a statement.


The iSeeCars report has mixed news for German automaker Volkswagen Group. The good news is that Volkswagen’s luxury car brand, Porsche, saw the lowest recall rate during a 31-year review of recall activity by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The bad news is Volkswagen’s non-luxury brand had the highest recall rate during the same period.

According to iSeeCars’s findings, Porsche had 531 recalls per 1,000 new vehicles sold between 1985 and 2016, while Volkswagen had 1,805 recalls per 1,000 vehicles sold during that same period.

“This is surprising because VW cars are usually highly rated,” Ly said in the statement.

But Ly pointed out that Volkswagen maintained a high recall rate during this period, resulting in its low ranking. The report does not include recalls related to Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal, which will likely worsen Volkswagen’s rating.


The report also had some bad news for Tesla, a relative newcomer among automakers. iSeeCars found most recalls issued between 1984 and 2016 were to address serious problems that could cause death, injury, collisions, fire, or accidents. Tesla had the highest rate of these severe recalls; in fact, 100 percent of its vehicle recalls were issued to address serious problems. Meanwhile, Volvo had the lowest rate of recalls related to serious issues: just 71 percent.

The report also had several bright spots for Tesla. iSeeCars found that the electric automaker was the most proactive of all companies because it initiated recalls based on its own findings, as opposed to a NHTSA-initiated investigation. The report found that 100 percent of Tesla’s recalls were manufacturer-initiated, far above the industry average of 46.1 percent. On the other hand, Ford had the lowest rate of manufacturer-initiated recalls: 29.6 percent.


Tesla also took the top spot for recall timeliness, with a rate of 100 percent. To determine which automakers had the most timely recalls, iSeeCars looked at how quickly automakers issue recalls, examining the number of campaigns issued over the 31-year period and comparing that figure to the number of campaigns involving vehicles within three years of their sales date.

General Motors had the highest spot among larger automakers, with a recall timeliness rate of 74.7 percent. Mazda had the lowest rate of recall timeliness: 48.4 percent.

“Timeliness is really a measure of how the car manufacturer handles recalls internally,” Ly said in the statement. “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.”


Here’s how the 18 major vehicle brands ranked according to their recall rate between between January 1985 and September 2016, from lowest to highest:


The Carrera GT is extremely rare among Porsches. It has a 5.7L V10 engine.

Porsche Carrera GT.

Cars recalled: 392,563

Cars sold: 793,812

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 531



TOP-DOWN STYLING: The Mercedes-Benz SLC300 roadster particularly enjoys convertible weather. It’s updated styling makes it at home anywhere, whether the view is from the front or the rear.

Mercedes-Benz SLC300.

Cars recalled: 3,664,182

Cars sold: 5,874,888

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 624



The 2017 Kia Sorento is available with an automatic emergency braking system that was rated Superior by IIHS. With the system equipped, the Sorento is a Top Safety Pick+ winner.

Kia Sorento.

Cars recalled: 5,169,239

Cars sold: 6,557,319

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 788



Tesla Model S. Model years: 2012-13, 2015.

Tesla Model S.

Cars recalled: 85,184

Cars sold: 91,046

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 936



Kelley Blue Book released its annual list of cool wheels that won’t break the bank. The Mazda3 took the top spot for the third year in a row.

Mazda Mazda3.


Cars recalled: 8,783,819

Cars sold: 9,201,683

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 955


General Motors

2016 Chevrolet Sonic.

Chevrolet Sonic.

Cars recalled: 129,225,450

Cars sold: 134,895,276

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 958



PROVEN FRIEND: The 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited delivers all the expected features and then some.

Subaru Outback.

Cars recalled: 3,664,182

Cars sold: 5,874,888

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 985



2017 Toyota Sienna.

Toyota Sienna.

Cars recalled: 52,614,771

Cars sold: 51,188,734

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,028



2016 Nissan Altima.

Nissan Altima.

Cars recalled: 28,771,128

Cars sold: 27,709,771

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,038


Jaguar Land Rover

ABLE TO SEE OVER SMALL MOUNTAINS: Of snow. Who doesn’t want to drive a Land Rover LR4 when in the middle of a snow apocalypse? These trusty SUVs were made to conquor the elements.

Land Rover LR4.

Cars recalled: 1,709,017

Cars sold: 1,601,295

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,067



The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is very affordable and has a terrific fuel economy.

Mitsubishi Mirage.


Cars recalled: 5,418,810

Cars sold: 4,973,757

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,089



2016 Ford Focus

2016 Ford Focus.

Cars recalled: 111,043,367

Cars sold: 97,493,753

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,139



THREE CHOICES, ALL GOOD: The Volvo XC90 Hybrid offers a variety of driving modes: a normal gas-electric hybrid operation, pure electric, power, save, and all-wheel-drive.

Volvo XC90 Hybrid.

Cars recalled: 3,398,341

Cars sold: 2,940,087

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,156



2016 BMW 528i. Winner: Best luxury passenger car. Base MSRP: $50,200. Fuel economy: 23 mpg city / 34 mpg highway. 5-year ownership costs: $54,332. Savings compared to similar vehicle: $4,255.

BMW 5-Series.

Cars recalled: 7,730,152

Cars sold: 4,973,757

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,196



The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said Tuesday that none of the 21 SUVs tested earned its highest ranking.

Hyundai Tucson.

Cars recalled: 13,606,160

Cars sold: 10,743,745

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,266



After a three-year absence, the Honda Ridgeline returns for 2017. The Ridgeline’s bed has a built-in trunk and an in-bed speaker system.

Honda Ridgeline.

Cars recalled: 46,117,074

Cars sold: 35,276,710

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,307



THINKING INSIDE THE BOX: Chrysler’s Pacifica is another step forward in the evolution of the minivan.

Chrysler Pacifica.


Cars recalled: 89,647,293

Cars sold: 63,057,833

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,422



FAMILIAR SILHOUETTE: Why is it that so many CUVs look alike? This boxy body is familiar but there are a few nice design notes that distinguish this VW.

Volkswagen Tiguan.

Cars recalled: 13,381,639

Cars sold: 7,415,150

Recall rate per 1,000 vehicles: 1,805


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