In 2021, 358 recalls were announced by 45 carmakers, affecting 270 models.
The 2021 data are based on an analysis of the Weekly overviews of Rapex notifications issued by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection, compiled annually into a well-arranged form by the Car-Recalls.eu website. The Rapex system only registers dangerous safety, health and environmental hazards.
The number of recalls is comparable to the previous year 2020, but the number of models and brands recalled has increased. As can be seen from the table below, Mercedes-Benz reported the most recalls to Rapex in 2021 again (67), followed by Volkswagen (25), Citroen (21), Audi and Opel (19).
BMW (17), Peugeot (16), Porsche (13), Toyota and Volvo (12) can also be found in the Top10. By the way, this is the first time Porsche has appeared this high; by contrast, Renault, which had recalled virtually only the Master van in 2021, dropped down.
The most common reasons
Engine faults were the most common in 2021 (109 compared to 94 in 2020), followed by fire risk (105/114), airbag faults (94/95) and brake problems (84/83). The suspension was flagged as a reason for recall 73 times (67 in 2020) while steering 26 times (31). In 62 cases, we used the EV/Hybrid label regardless of whether the fault was with the electric drive or other car parts (e.g. the suspension on the Porsche Taycan or Tesla).
Complex technology, too fast development
Alarmingly, the number of recalls has increased sixfold in the last ten years. According to a study on Recall Trends of Global Automakers, this is due to the technical complexity of modern cars and the high competitive pressure forcing carmakers to launch new models in ever shorter time frames. Manufacturers are not producing up to 75% of parts themselves but shifting production to global suppliers. This makes quality control more difficult. In addition, they push suppliers to cut costs, which risks reducing quality. The use of modular and common part platforms is causing an ampler spread of defects between different models. When you use the same imperfect solution on ten different models of different brands, the number of recalls is multiplied.
We should also not forget that the growing number of recalls may be just the tip of the iceberg regarding the quality of today’s cars. Manufacturers are only obliged by law to issue recalls when safety, health or the environment is at risk. Various functional and design defects, where “only” the customer’s wallet and, in the worst case, the lifetime of the car or part is at risk, need not be reported anywhere. It can only be preventatively improved as a TSB (Technical Service Bulletins) to those who go to authorised dealers for regular inspections. Independent garages usually don’t have a chance to know about the problem. Follow our guide and ask your nearest official dealer if there are any open recalls or technical service bulletins on your car.
A detailed overview of recalls in 2021
In our detailed overview, we traditionally dedicate a special page to each manufacturer with a description of all the defects of the concerned models. Simply click on the link in the table where we also list the number of recalls/number of recalled models for each make in 2018 – 2020 for comparison. The number in brackets next to the ranking is the position the manufacturer had last year.
You can also see which 25 cars had more than five recalls.
Number of recalls by Manufacturer in 2021
Order 1 – 10
|3 (7)||Citroen & DS||21||18||18/13||25/14||17/13|
|9 (5)||Toyota||12||13||22/14||14/11||14/16||= (11)||Volvo||12||13||10/15||11/15||2/1|
Order 11 – 20
|14 (17)||Land Rover||10||4||7/3||6/4||4/4|
Order 21 – 30
|26 (18)||Seat & Cupra||3||6||6/6||8/6||8/8|
|28 (-)||Alfa Romeo||3||2||0/0||5/2||2/3|
Order 31 – 40
Order 41 – 45
* Minor recalls concerning cars produced over just a few days are not usually listed.
* Data for this unofficial summary is sourced from the weekly overview of reports from RAPEX notifications.
Illustrative photo: source Mercedes-Benz