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The most recalled car brands

Recalls are a fact of life, and often show an automaker to be proactive in dealing with a potential fault – even if it could only affect a small handful of vehicles.

Nevertheless, they can be frustrating, particularly when owners have to heed seemingly dire warnings to take their vehicle to a dealer immediately due to a potential safety issue. It’s better to be safe than sorry, but it can still be a pain.

With some fairly high-volume recalls popping up in recent times, we thought we’d take a look at which brands have issued the most recall notices and which brands have recalled the greatest number of vehicles overall.

Not all recalls are created equal, with some rectifiable via an over-the-air update. Recalls have also been issued for issues as seemingly insignificant as a typo in the owner’s manual or, in the case of the Toyota HiLux, a licence plate defect.

We’re not going to act as arbiters of what is a major fault, however. We’ve counted every single recall notice with an original publication date within 2021.

We’ve also counted every separate recall, even if the number of vehicles affected is tiny. For example, one Audi RSQ8 recall from 2021 involved a single vehicle.

In the new year, we’ll also publish an overview of the 2022 data.

While it would be tempting to look at the number of recalled vehicles relative to the total number of vehicles sold in a particular year to identify “problem” brands, many recall notices affect vehicles over a period of multiple years.

Indeed, a few of the recalls issued last year affected vehicles up to 20 years old, like a recall of 2003-06 Mazda 3s for a brittle horn pad logo.

It’s also worth noting the absence of a recall notice doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of an issue. Some companies may choose to be more proactive by issuing a recall sooner rather than later.

In analysing this data, we noticed a few new vehicle launches during 2021 that each resulted in a handful of recalls – the Kia Carnival, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Subaru Outback – as their manufacturers looked to resolve first-year teething issues.

Total number of recalled vehicles

It’s perhaps not surprising to see Mazda, Toyota and Hyundai top the charts in terms of the total number of vehicles recalled, given Toyota is consistently Australia’s top-selling brand and Mazda and Hyundai were second and third last year, respectively.

Subaru sat in fourth in terms of the number of recalled vehicles, however, but was the 10th best-selling brand, while fifth-place Mercedes-Benz was number 12 on the sales charts.

The greatest single recalls were from Toyota, with a 156,838-vehicle HiLux recall for the aforementioned licence plate issue, followed by Mazda with 90,363 recalled vehicles across the 2, 3, 6, MX-5, CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9 lines for a fuel pump issue.

Brand Total number of affected vehicles
Mazda 177,028
Toyota 171,558
Hyundai 112,456
Subaru 109,289
Mercedes-Benz 80,709
Kia 66,420
Jeep 28,254
Volkswagen 22,470
Nissan 18,436
BMW (including Mini) 16,974
Mitsubishi 12,524
Volvo 10,878
Suzuki 4513
Audi 4033
MG 3944
Peugeot 2832
Tesla 2829
Land Rover 2827
Ford 1693
LDV 1186
Porsche 845
Bentley 818
Fiat 394
Renault 266
Citroen 171
Jaguar 165
Genesis 135
Honda 89
Infiniti 59
Lamborghini 33
Chrysler 32
Abarth 32
McLaren 2
Lexus 2

Total number of recall notices issued

When looking at the total number of recall notices issued, the top five shakes out quite a bit differently. Toyota remains in second with a total of 13 notices issued and Hyundai dips slightly to fifth with eight notices issued.

But Nissan had the fourth greatest number of recall notices issued with nine, albeit with only 18,436 vehicles affected – just under a tenth of Toyota’s tally.

Land Rover issued 10 recall notices with 2827 vehicles affected, while Mercedes-Benz was (un)comfortably ahead of the others with 42 recall notices issued.

A total of 11 of these recalls were for one model line alone – the Sprinter – with seven for the A-Class and six for the GLA. However, many of these recalls only affected a handful of vehicles.

Brand Number of recall notices
Mercedes-Benz 42
Toyota 13
Land Rover 10
Nissan 9
Hyundai 8
Audi, Subaru and Volkswagen 7 each
Jeep, Mazda and Volvo 5 each
Bentley, BMW (including Mini), Ford, Kia, Porsche and Tesla 4 each
Genesis, Jaguar, Lamborghini, LDV, Mitsubishi and Peugeot 2 each

Abarth, Chrysler, Citroen, Fiat, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, McLaren, MG and Renault each issued a single recall notice during 2021.

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