Car recalls have become increasingly prevalent in the automotive industry. Why do these cars get recalled, and which manufacturers are beating out the rest? Car recalls used to be a rare, headline-making aberrance, but are increasingly the norm in the automotive industry. Over 22 million vehicles were recalled last year alone -- the most since 2009. A good example of this trend can be seen in the vehicle recalls that plagued Toyota through 2009-2011. Once considered among the most reliable, suffered a recalls that dampened its reputation. Given the frequency of recalls, it warrants asking: why do these recalls happen, and which manufacturers get the fewest recalls?
Recalls on the Rise
The cars of today are scarcely anything like the cars of the past. Most in-car components are now electronically controlled by powerful computers. This, along with the generally greater mechanical complexity of modern cars, means there is a higher failure rate associated with different car components -- as exemplified by Toyota's acceleration pedal issue in 2010. Along with technological complexity, there has also been a clamp down on safety standards by highway and safety authorities. Furthermore, newer safety standards require auto manufacturers to include features such as rearview cameras as standard equipment. This also contributes to increased technological complexity, which further exacerbates the problem. At the same time, manufacturers have also been releasing a slew of new models in the last few years to keep pace with market demand. Ford and GM alone are expected to release 30 new models by 2014. Since new models are untested by the consumers, they frequently have higher recalls than older, tested models. In this new reality of frequent automobile recalls, consumers have to make informed choices and pick a reliable car manufacturer. On that note, let's look at the manufacturers with fewest recalls.
Car Manufacturers with Fewest Recalls
Auto recall figures must always be viewed in statistical context. Manufacturers who sell more cars are also more likely to have more recalls. Toyota, for example, has millions of recalls, but also has tens of millions in worldwide sales. A smaller manufacturer like Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, is likely to have fewer recalls in absolute numbers because its sales are fewer as well. Thus, rather than looking at absolute numbers, a better way to consider recall statistics is to consider total recalls in proportion to total sales. In that context, the three automakers with fewest recalls are: 1. Chrysler: Chrysler's total recalls in 2012 were 1.334 million, which was around 600,000 less than nearest competitor Ford (which had 1.39 million recalls in the same year). Chrysler also had just 13 recall incidents compared to Ford's 24. 2. Nissan: Nissan fared comparatively better than its Japanese rivals Honda and Toyota, with just 215,640 recalls in 2012. 3. Kia: Kia has had an extended run of exceptionally strong sales in the last few years. Recalls, on the other hand, have been comparatively low. The manufacturer had 240,235 recalls in 2012, which was lower than rival Hyundai. In light of the recent spate of recalls, picking a car from any one of the above three manufacturers is a relatively safer bet, though there are no guarantees given the nature of technological malfunctions. Photo Credit: Alaska Law Enforcement Museum via Flickr.