The Most Recalled Cars of 2019

Vehicles are one of the most significant expenditures that households budget for in Britain, beside the financial commitment of a mortgage.

John Ellmore Last updated on 22 March 2022.
The Most Recalled Cars of 2019

The majority of Brits rely on cars on a daily basis, but a surprising number of vehicles are recalled by manufacturers each year over safety concerns.

New data from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), exclusively sourced by NerdWallet, reveals that Mercedes-Benz (with 504,047 recalls) is the most recalled car of 2019.

Our data insights also show that overall vehicle recalls steadily increased during the four-year period between 2014 and 2018. For example, in 2018, there was a staggering increase of 62% on the previous year. While 2019 shows a 68% decrease on last year’s peak, it is still higher than any previous years studied in our analysis.

Did you know?

  • Cars account for 94% of recalls, while motorcycles account for 1.53%.
  • Vauxhall is the most recalled brand between 2014 and 2019 (1.63 million).
  • BMW is the second most frequently recalled car brand from 2014 to 2019 (1.6 million).
  • Audi (434,440) is the brand with the least recalls between 2014 and 2019, 26% lower than Vauxhall.

The most recalled vehicle makes between 2014 and 2019

Cars

With the vast majority of vehicles in the UK being cars, it follows that UK vehicle recalls are dominated by cars – in fact, 94% of the recalls in the DVSA data were cars.

Car recalls by brand in the UK between 2014 and 2019

Vigilant consumers will benefit from researching the safety record of manufacturers when looking to buy a vehicle, whether brand new or secondhand.

Brands with consistently poor performance ratings may not be the best choice for consumers who are more mindful of safety. So consumers should take safety records into account before making a purchase.

As well as considering the manufacturer’s performance across the five-year period between 2014 and 2019, consumers should analyse a brand’s recall figures before inking any contracts; is it improving or declining?

Let’s take a look at the top 10 most recalled car brands between 2014 and 2019:

  1. Vauxhall – 1,630,115
  2. BMW – 1,602,308
  3. Mercedes-Benz – 1,338,059
  4. Honda – 1,107,520
  5. Toyota – 982,576
  6. Ford – 905,796
  7. Mazda – 839,878
  8. Nissan – 670,302
  9. Volkswagen – 467,634
  10. Audi – 434,440

However, when it comes to figures for 2019, the most recalled brand of car was Mercedes-Benz, with 504,047 recalls in total. The brand featured consistently in the top 10 between 2017 and 2019, and its recall numbers in 2018 were higher than this year, although Mercedes only had the third highest number of recalls in 2018: 476,788.

Neil Hutchinson, chairman of Mercury Car Centre, in Chelmsford, Essex, says: "The manufacturer of the car is a big factor; consumers should do their research before committing to a make. There are plenty of websites with figures on car manufacturers’ breakdowns and repairs.

“A luxury car manufacturer isn’t necessarily the most reliable. It’s also important to consider what type of road or terrain the car will be driven on, as some cars are more reliable in different environments."

Surprisingly, the total number of recalls in 2019 is over three times higher than that in 2014, when a relatively modest 725,398 cars were recalled. Since then, this has jumped remarkably to 2,435,701 recalls in 2019.

This is possibly due to an increase in caution from manufacturers or tighter recall regulations and rules.

Of course, when cars are recalled by the manufacturer, this is an extremely serious issue, as car recalls are only issued when a vehicle poses a serious risk to the safety of road users.

Did you know?

  • Vauxhall had the most car recalls in the UK between 2014- and 2019 (16.34% of total recalled cars), followed by BMW (16.06%) and Mercedes-Benz (13.41%).
  • Recall numbers in 2019 (2,435,701) were over three times higher than 2014 (725,398).
  • 2018 was the year with the most car recalls (3,820,539).
  • 2014-15 saw the highest increase from the most recalled brand year on year (94,864 to 448,911 – an increase of around 473%).
  • In 2014, Fiat had the highest number of recalls (94,864), however, the manufacturer hasn’t featured in the top 10 of most recalled cars in subsequent years.
  • Vauxhall had the highest number of recalls in both 2016 and 2017.
  • Ford is the only car brand to feature in the top 10 every year.
  • Audi (4.35%) had the lowest amount of recalls out of the total number of recalled cars across the period.

Does my car have a recall record?

You can discover if your car has been recalled before – all you need to do is enter your vehicle registration number at gov.uk's car recall check facility.

The RAC has an extensive resource on what to do if your car is recalled.

How can I tell when my car was manufactured?

To determine if your car might have been recalled, it can be useful to know which year it was manufactured.

This can be discovered through a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). A VIN is a unique string of letters and numbers assigned to your vehicle – usually in the form of 17 digits.

A VIN is usually marked on your car’s dashboard, at the base of the windscreen by the driver’s side, a sticker on the driver’s door, or at the front of the engine.

Your VIN should also be clearly marked on your insurance and registration documents.

Reasons for car recalls

Thousands of cars are recalled each year, which can be for a variety of safety-related reasons including:

  • defective components or accessories, such as faulty airbags or windscreen wipers
  • mechanical faults, which might cause the vehicle to catch fire

Discover your legal rights and obligations when your car is recalled by the manufacturer at gov.uk.

Top 10 recalled car brands in 2014-19

Fewer Brits were affected by the most recalled brand this year than in previous years. The highest number of brand recalls in one year was BMW in 2018 (918,000). This number was 35% higher than the second highest year for recalls, which was occupied by Vauxhall in 2017 (599,000 in total).

The most recalled car makes varied from year to year, during this five-year period.

During these five years, the highest total number of recalls for all models combined was in 2018, when 3,820,539 were recalled.

There was a hugely marked increase in the total number of vehicles recalled from 2015 onwards. In 2015, the most recalled brand was Honda, with 448,911 recalls, compared with 94,864 recalls for Fiat, the most recalled brand of 2014.

Is this due to increasingly stringent security protocols, or more unscrupulous car manufacturers building forced obsolescence into their vehicles?

Landmark car recall scandals

Volkswagen defeat devices

There have been some big stories about car recalls in the past few years, none more notable and newsworthy than the Volkswagen defeat devices emissions scandal.

Also dubbed the ‘diesel dupe’, US emissions tests revealed that Volkswagen had added devices to their diesel cars, which showed that their models were within legal emission regulation limits, when in use.

However, when driven on normal road conditions, the car’s emissions were far in excess of allowable limits. In fact, during real-world driving Volkswagen cars emitted up to 40 times more nitrous oxide than the legal limit.

Class action suits, court cases and substantial fines

The shockwaves of the scandal reached far and wide, being felt across the US, Europe and as far away as Australia. The effects were first felt in the US, where the subterfuge was initially uncovered.

As many as 475,000 US Volkswagen owners were given the opportunity to choose a buy-back on their vehicles or to have their cars fixed free of charge and receive compensation.

US consumers also brought class action lawsuits against the company. As of October 2015, the number of class action lawsuits filed in the US court system had reached 230.

ABC News Australia stated that 90,000 class action lawsuits were filed in Australia by VW, Audi and Skoda diesel car customers in 2015.

By 2019, Volkswagen settled on a payout of up to A$87 million (£45 million).

In the UK, the waters are slightly muddier. A class action lawsuit has been dragged through the courts since 2015 and proceedings are expected to reach a conclusion in 2022. Some 90,000 motorists have been involved in this UK lawsuit, which affected 1.2 million Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen cars.

Some 8.5 million cars were recalled throughout Europe as a result of illegal defeat devices in 2015, costing Volkswagen approximately £12 billion. What is more, Volkswagen paid out $14.7 billion in a US court settlement to diesel car owners.

The news of Volkswagen’s illegal activity broke in 2015 and may have had a knock-on impact on the rest of the industry, especially consumer confidence in diesel vehicles, although it is by no means the biggest car recall, coming fifth on the list of widest reaching recalls in history.

Top 10 automotive recalls in history

  1. 2013 Takata airbags – faulty airbags (42 million recalls worldwide)
  2. 1980 Ford – faulty park mode (21 million cars recalled)
  3. 1999 Ford – cruise control fault (14.9 million cars recalled)
  4. 2000 Toyota – pedal error led to rapid acceleration (9 million recalls)
  5. 2015 Volkswagen – emissions test cheat (8.5 million recalls)
  6. 1996 Ford – faulty ignition switch (7.5 million recalls)
  7. 2012 Toyota – electric window failure (7.4 million recalls)
  8. 1971 General Motors – sudden acceleration (6.7 million recalls)
  9. 1981 General Motors – rear suspension fault (5.8 million recalls)
  10. 2014 Honda – airbag inflation fault (5.4 million recalls)

The largest ever recall in automotive history wasn’t associated with one particular car manufacturer. Instead, the company associated with this safety nightmare was an automotive parts company.

It took place in 2013, after airbags manufactured by the Japanese Takata Corporation led to fatalities in the US. After an initial recall of 3.6 million airbags, further safety concerns caused a worldwide recall of 42 million airbags in total, leading to the bankruptcy of Takata.

Which car makes are the most reliable?

Intriguingly, our data marking the fact that BMW and Mercedes-Benz experienced a high volume of recalls between 2014 and 2019 matches with a study into vehicle reliability by data analytics firm J.D. Power.

The J.D. Power Dependability Study profiled car brand safety and reliability, finding luxury cars manufacturer BMW the least dependable car maker for the second year in a row in 2019. Mercedes also came out of the survey with a less than glowing report into the reliability of its vehicles, although it is ranked the highest of all luxury car makers, in 14th place.

The most reliable makes tend to be economy brands rather than luxury ones. In 2019, manufacturers from the Far East were rated the most reliable, with Hyundai taking first place, followed by Suzuki and Kia.

The only manufacturer in the top five not from the Far East is the Czech manufacturer, Škoda, which is owned by the Volkswagen group.

Top 5 most reliable car brands

  • Hyundai
  • Suzuki
  • Kia
  • Skoda
  • Nissan

Did you know?

  • One in four recalled vehicles in the USA are not repaired, according to independent think tank Consumer Reports.
  • This statistic is so important, because it means if you purchased a car in the last five years, there’s a chance it could be a recalled vehicle without you knowing and it could have deep-seated safety faults.
  • If you purchased a second-hand car recently, which was found to have been recalled before, don’t panic. Most makers will offer free recalls and repairs. Check with your local authorised dealership.

“Buying a used vehicle makes sense because it is cheaper. You should ask the dealer as many questions as you can, to see how well they know the history of the vehicle and how honest and trustworthy you perceive them to be,” advises Hutchinson of Mercury Cars.

“You should also inspect the appearance of the vehicle. For example, mismatched paint or rust can signify previous collisions or flood damage, which can have adverse effects later on. I’d also strongly advise taking the car for a test drive.”

BMW parliamentary select committee

In 2018, BMW recalled 268,000 cars in the UK due to a stalling risk and potential fire hazard. Over 1.6 million cars were recalled worldwide because of these faults.

As with the Volkswagen scandal, all the affected vehicles were diesel, and the vehicles in question were manufactured between August 2010 and January 2017. Using the information we’ve provided, check your car to see if it matches these specs and make sure it is not affected by this issue.

Recalled BMW models

The recall covers certain models in the following series: 1 Series, 2 Series, 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, 6 Series, 7 Series, X1, X3, X4, X5, X6.

These recalls led to a select committee inquiry by the House of Commons Transport Committee, which aimed to establish why the recalls by BMW took so long after the manufacture of some of the vehicles, as well as the nature of the investigation into the vehicle faults. In addition, it looked at how the recall was managed and finally, how and when information reached vehicle owners.

BMW executives and key DVSA representatives were interviewed – the full transcript of the interviews can be read on gov.uk.

Breaking down the key findings

As we know, Mercedes-Benz is the most recalled car brand of 2019. However, this doesn’t mean that car buyers should be permanently put off buying Mercedes cars.

It’s clear that the brand with the most recalls varies from year to year and depends on a number of factors.

However, it is worth remembering that consumers should always carry out appropriate research, when considering purchasing a brand with consistently high recall figures or low dependability ratings.

Vauxhall was the most recalled brand between 2014 and 2019 (1.63 million), while BMW was the second most frequently recalled car brand between 2014 and 2019 (1.6 million).

Audi was the brand with the least recalls over this period (1.3 million), 26% lower than Vauxhall’s number of recalls.

Our comparison tables

After reading this article you may be convinced of the need to protect your car. Check out our car warranty and breakdown cover comparison tables, to choose the best deal for you.

Disclaimer: Third party data in this article was provided by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency [DVSA] via freedom of information and was correct at the time of publication.

The data displays the number of cars by make and model that were recalled between 2014 and 2019.

NerdWallet does not accept for any reason, responsibility for the content on third party sites.

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

John Ellmore is a director of NerdWallet UK and is a company spokesperson for consumer finance issues. John is committed to providing clear, accurate and transparent financial information. Read more

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