From pickup trucks to minivans and everything in between, 2014 has already been a year of immense recall efforts from automakers around the globe, and it’s barely April. Over the last several years, a number of high-profile recalls have been executed, which got us thinking: In the tally of recalled vehicles, which company leads the pack? At the end of the day, what company recalls the most versus the fewest?
Fortunately, there are sites like iSeeCars.com, which used National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall data between 1985 and 2014, as well as sales data between 1980 and 2013 to determine a “recall rate” — that is, the number of vehicles recalled for every vehicle the company sells. This gives us a pretty good idea of who is recalling the most and fewest vehicles based not on volume of recalls but as a percentage of the automaker’s share of car sales. “Factoring in the manufacturer’s sales allows iSeeCars.com to make an apples to apples comparison across larger and smaller manufacturers and to ensure a fair assessment is being done of automakers of differing sizes,” the site says.
“A lower recall rate could be an indication an automaker has relatively better manufacturing and quality control processes,” Phong Ly, CEO and co-founder of iSeeCars.com, said in the report. “The recall rate could also be an indication of a manufacturer’s risk tolerance or strategy. Some automakers may issue recalls at a higher frequency because they may be more cautious and proactive.”
Here’s a list of the 10 lowest recall rates in the industry, as determined by iSeeCars’ analysis.
Rounding out the top 10 is Honda (NYSE:HMC), a brand made legendary for the dependability of its vehicles. However, dependability and recall rates don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Between 1985 and 2014, Honda has recalled 31.1 million vehicles for various reasons, having sold 32.9 million in the same period, giving the automaker a recall rate of 0.94. The company most recently recalled nearly 900,000 Odyssey minivans for a defective fuel pump cover.
Next up is Ford (NYSE:F), which over the last 20 years or so has sold 104.7 million units. During that time, Ford issued recalls for 97 million of its outstanding vehicles, barely edging out Honda’s recall rate with 0.93. Ford recently recalled the Edge SUV equipped with the 2.0 liter EcoBoost engines from the 2012 and 2013 model years for potential fuel leaks from a a defective fuel line pulse damper housing.
BMW AG sold just 5.7 million cars between 1985 and 2014 since it’s a niche player, though it has sent out recalls for 5.1 million of them. This gives the Bavarian automaker a 0.90 recall rate. BMW hasn’t had a high-profile recall in the U.S. in a long time — three months ago, it issued one of the smallest, calling back three (yes, three) X3 SUVs — but it put out a 76,000-strong recall effort around the same time for airbag concerns.
Toyota (NYSE:TM) gained notoriety when it, after some time had passed, recalled millions of vehicles several years ago over an unintended acceleration debacle that ended up costing the company $1.2 billion in fines and a whole lot of negative public opinion. Since then, it’s been quick on the recall switch to ensure it doesn’t happen again. From 1985, Toyota has sold 48.1 million vehicles and recalled 38.6 million, for a recall rate of 0.80.
Don’t be fooled by its historically cheap and simple offerings: Kia has the sixth-lowest recall rate in the industry, pulling in 3.7 million of the 4.9 million cars that it sold between 1985 and 2014. This gives the Korean firm a solid recall rate of 0.77, besting Toyota and its sister company, Hyundai, which came in 15th with a 1.15 recall rate. Kia’s last big recall effort happened in November, when it reeled in 80,000 Sedona minivans for potential suspension corrosion.
5. Subaru of North America
Subaru’s American unit has sold 6 million vehicles since 1985, 4.3 million of which have been subjected to a recall. This gives the maker of outdoor-enthusiast-preferred vehicles a recall rate of 0.73; Subaru initiated a major (by Subaru’s low-volume standards) recall for 5,379 Legacy sedan and Outback wagons from the 2013 model year about 10 months ago for potential steering loss.
4. Nissan North America
Fresh off its recall of nearly a million vehicles for a software glitch that could disable the passenger airbag, Nissan (NSANY.PK) was given a recall rating of 0.71, having recalled 19.1 million of the 26.8 million vehicles that it sold since 1985. Nissan also recalled 13,535 units of the Frontier pickup (pictured) about a month ago, due to concerns that a circuit breaker may have been installed incorrectly.
3. General Motors
The terms “General Motors“ (NYSE:GM) and “recall” have gone hand in hand this year, as the company put out an effort to bring in millions of vehicles over an ignition issue that has turned into a federal agency frenzy and has thrust GM into a rather unpleasant spotlight. However, before those recalls were enacted, General Motors had the third-lowest recall rate in the industry, at 0.65; of the 153.2 million vehicles it sold between 1985 and 2014, 99.3 million of them were subjected to a recall of some sort.
Mazda is a small-volume player when compared to the big guys like Toyota, Ford, or GM, but it’s among the leaders for fewest vehicles recalled as a percentage of vehicles sold. In the last two decades, Mazda has sold 9.4 million vehicles and recalled 5.2 million of them for whatever reason. The company pulled in 98,000 Mazda6 sedans in September, as the doors could open while the cars were in motion.
Perhaps surprisingly, German outfit Mercedes-Benz (DDAIF.PK) has logged the lowest rate of recalls in the auto industry between 1985 and 2014, having recalled just 2.1 million of the 5.2 million vehicles it sold over that period of time. Most recently, Mercedes put out a bulletin recalling just 290 S Class sedans over concerns that the seatbelt anchors may have been incorrectly installed.