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The Most Recalled Vehicles of All Time: An Analysis of NHTSA Recall Data

Explore Recalls By Make and Model

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Explore Recalls By Make and Model

 

In the United States, a vehicle recall is issued when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or a manufacturer determines that a vehicle or vehicle part poses an unreasonable safety risk or fails to meet minimum safety standards.

The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301) defines motor vehicle safety as “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.”

When a recall occurs, manufacturers are required to fix the problem by repairing the part or vehicle, replacing it, offering a refund, or in rare cases repurchasing the vehicle.

Recalls play an important role in road and motor vehicle safety, ensuring that consumers are notified about safety issues and that defects are fixed.  The NHTSA maintains a database of all vehicle recalls – a total of 22,559 unique recalls affecting millions of vehicles.  We wanted to know which vehicles are recalled most often.

For this analysis, we worked with data visualization firm 1Point21 Interactive to explore the vehicle makes and models that appear most often in the NHTSA’s database.

In most cases, the vehicle manufacturer initiates the recall voluntarily.  However, the NHTSA may do so through the Office of Defect Investigation (ODI) or the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance (OVSC).

Of the 22,559 unique recalls in the database, only 17.3 percent (3,911) were initiated by the NHTSA.

However, there is a significant variance from manufacturers in this measure.  For example, 22 percent of recalls affecting Ford vehicles were initiated by the NHTSA, compared to only seven percent of those affecting Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Vehicle Makes With the Most Unique Recalls

When examining the data by vehicle make, we find that Ford vehicles have been recalled more than any other manufacturer.   A recall can affect many different vehicle models and model years.  Our analysis only counts unique recalls for both make and mode.

Ford has had 3,086 unique recalls affect their vehicles making it the most recalled make of vehicle in the United States.  That’s nearly 1,000 more than the second most recalled make, Chevrolet.   Interestingly, four of the top six on the list are American car manufacturers – Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, and GMC.

By this metric, the top six most recalled makes were all manufacturers of passenger vehicles, primarily.

The Most Recalled Vehicle Makes of All Time

The Top 50 Most Recalled Vehicle Makes

The table below shows the 50 vehicle makes that have been affected by the most unique recalls, along with the system (reason) that was most often affected.

Rank Make Unique Recalls System Most Affected
1 Ford 3,086 equipment adaptive/mobility
2 Chevrolet 2,127 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
3 Mercedes-Benz 1,860 electrical system:software
4 Dodge 1,503 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
5 BMW 1,469 engine and engine cooling:engine
6 GMC 1,361 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
7 Freightliner 1,275 steering
8 Mack 1,116 service brakes, air, steering:linkages
9 Volvo 866 equipment:other:labels
10 Kenworth 815 service brakes, air
11 Fleetwood 786 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
12 Peterbilt 773 service brakes, air
13 International 736 service brakes, air
14 International Harvester 734 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
15 Honda 718 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
16 Toyota 717 equipment:other:labels
17 Blue Bird 688 equipment adaptive/mobility
18 Forest River 673 equipment:other:labels
19 Harley Davidson 636 service brakes, hydraulic
20 Winnebago 614 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
21 Newmar 610 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
22 Volkswagen 549 equipment:other:labels
23 Spartan 537 equipment, service brakes, air, steering
24 Buick 509 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
25 Jayco 508 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
26 Nissan 500 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module, latches/locks/linkages:hood:latch
27 Pontiac 488 fuel system, gasoline:delivery:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
28 Keystone 487 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
29 Jeep 482 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
30 Audi 478 air bags
31 New Flyer 451 service brakes, air
32 Coachmen 411 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
33 Holiday Rambler 402 equipment:other:labels, equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
34 Chrysler 394 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings, vehicle speed control
35 Thomas Built Buses 388 equipment adaptive/mobility
36 Mercury 387 vehicle speed control
37 Plymouth 377 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
38 Porsche 372 fuel system, gasoline:delivery:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
39 Cadillac 370 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:drum:wheel cylinders
40 Prevost 360 equipment
41 Subaru 347 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
42 Pierce 341 equipment
43 Starcraft 334 equipment:other:labels
44 Hyundai 325 air bags
45 Gulf Stream 324 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
46 Itasca 316 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
47 Lincoln 309 power train:automatic transmission
48 Oldsmobile 307 fuel system, gasoline:delivery:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
49 Thomas 293 structure:body
50 Thor 293 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer

The Most Recalled Vehicle Models of All Time

The recalls contained in the database affected over 200,000 unique models and model years.   Because of this, we included all years for each listed model.

The Most Recalled Vehicle Models of All Time

Surprisingly, the two most recalled vehicles of all time are both Blue Bird school buses.  The All American and Vision school buses have been recalled 192 and 149 times, respectively.

While initially surprising, these vehicles’ position at the top makes sense when you consider the role they play in our society and the length of time they have been in service.  Designed to transport children to and from school, the All American has been in service since 1948 and the Vision since 2003.  Both busses are in use in thousands of school districts across the US and Canada.

Beyond

Rank Make Model Unique Recalls System Most Affected
1 Blue Bird All American 192 equipment adaptive/mobility
2 Blue Bird Vision 149 equipment adaptive/mobility
3 Kenworth T800 130 service brakes, air
4 Freightliner Cascadia 117 steering
5 Ford F-150 115 power train:automatic transmission
6 Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 105 seats
7 Kenworth W900 101 engine, power train, steering
8 Buick Regal 97 seat belts, service brakes, suspension:rear
9 Jeep Grand Cherokee 97 electrical system
10 Ford E-350 96 equipment adaptive/mobility
11 Freightliner Business Class M2 93 service brakes, air:disc:caliper
12 IC Bus CE 89 equipment adaptive/mobility
13 Ford Explorer 83 suspension:rear
14 Jeep Cherokee 83 power train:automatic transmission, service brakes
15 BMW X5 81 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
16 Western Star 4900 80 engine and engine cooling
17 Freightliner Freightliner 79 steering:linkages
18 Volvo VNL 78 steering
19 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 77 equipment:other:labels
20 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 77 equipment:other:labels
21 Subaru Legacy 77 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
22 Dodge Charger 76 power train:automatic transmission
23 Ford Mustang 76 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module,cooling system
24 Chevrolet Suburban 74 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
25 Ford F250 74 fuel system, gasoline:storage:tank assembly:mounting
26 Newmar Dutch Star 74 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
27 Ford E-250 72 equipment adaptive/mobility
28 Volkswagen Jetta 72 service brakes, hydraulic:foundation components:hoses, lines/piping, and fittings
29 Ford Ranger 71 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
30 Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner Hdx 71 seats
31 Honda Accord 70 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
32 Honda Civic 70 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
33 Honda Odyssey 70 air bags
34 Newmar Mountain Aire 69 equipment:recreational vehicle/trailer
35 Spartan Gladiator 69 equipment
36 Chevrolet Tahoe 68 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
37 Gillig Low Floor 68 exterior lighting:turn signal
38 Pontiac Grand Prix 68 air bags:frontal, seat belts
39 Ford Taurus 67 power train:automatic transmission
40 Freightliner Sprinter 3500 67 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
41 Altec Aerial Device 66 aerial device
42 Chevrolet Express 66 equipment adaptive/mobility
43 Chrysler Town And Country 66 air bags
44 Dodge Durango 66 air bags
45 Dodge Grand Caravan 66 air bags, seats
46 Blue Bird Tc2000 65 structure:body
47 Ram 1500 65 power train:automatic transmission
48 Subaru Outback 65 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module
49 Chevrolet Malibu 64 suspension:rear
50 Freightliner Sprinter 2500 64 air bags:frontal:passenger side:inflator module

The Most Recalled Passenger Vehicles of All Time: Top Ten

While the top ten of all vehicles is dominated by busses and commercial vehicles (seven of the top ten are in one of those categories), below we highlight the ten most recalled passenger vehicles.

Of note, three vans are originally appeared in the top ten – the Ford E-350 with 96 recalls and the Mercedes Sprinter 2500 and 3500 both with 77 recalls. We omitted them from the top ten below because all three vans are widely used in commercial applications.

1. Ford F150

115 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Power Train: Automatic Transmission

T-2. Buick Regal

97 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Seat Belts, Service Brakes, Suspension: Rear

T-2. Jeep Grand Cherokee

97 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Electrical System

T-4. Ford Explorer

83 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Suspension: Rear

T-4. Jeep Cherokee

83 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Power train: Automatic Transmission, Service Brakes

6. BMW X5

81 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Air Bags: Frontal: Passenger Side: Inflator module

7. Subaru Legacy

77 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Air Bags: Frontal: Passenger Side: Inflator Module

T-8. Dodge Charger

76 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Power Train: Automatic Transmission

T-8. Ford Mustang

76 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Air Bags: Frontal: Passenger Side: Inflator Module, Cooling System

T-10. Chevrolet Suburban

74 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Air Bags: Frontal: Passenger Side: Inflator Module

T-10. Ford F250

74 unique recalls
Most Common Reason for Recall? Fuel System, Gasoline: Storage: Tank Assembly: Mounting

Methodology and Notes

This analysis examines data from the NHTSA recalls database.  While the data also includes records for tires, equipment, and car seats, our analysis only includes vehicles.  It should be noted that most recalls are voluntary and just because a vehicle has been recalled many times does not necessarily make it unsafe.  In many cases, vehicle models have been recalled more than others simply because they have been in production for longer than others.

While recalls are made to fix a safety issue, sometimes they occur too late or after many accidents or injuries. In these cases, the law specifically states that the recall remedies are in addition to other available legal remedies.  If you have suffered serious injuries as a result of a safety defect or unsafe vehicle, you should consult a lawyer.