Some, perhaps many, of Tesla recalls are software issues that require an over-the-air update to fix, which prompt Tesla fans to say that they aren’t really recalls at all, in the traditional sense of having to take your car to a dealer to get some bit of potentially dangerous hardware replaced. This is sort of true, but ignores the fact that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nonetheless officially refers to them as recalls, because they all go through the same process. Also, some of Tesla’s recalls — many, even — are of the classical sort, loose bolts and faulty taillights and detaching steering wheels and whatnot.
Anyway, Tesla has a lot of recalls, because that’s what happens when you put out products that are seemingly in endless beta mode. So it should come as no surprise that, according to a new study from iSeeCars.com, Models S, X, Y, and 3 are all in the top 5 of most expected recalls based on recalls in the past decade.
According to iSeeCars.com, this was their methodology:
iSeeCars analyzed vehicle safety recall campaigns as of April 7, 2023 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for cars from model years 2014-2023. The number of campaigns for each model was aggregated and projected for an expected 30-year lifespan, taking into account the overall behavior of the automaker and when each recall campaign was issued in the car’s lifetime. The resulting estimates were then used to rank models with the fewest and most expected safety recalls. Heavy-duty vehicles, low-volume models, and models discontinued prior to the 2020 model year were excluded from further analysis.
And here are their results. We’ll start with the most recalled models:
And the least:
It is important to note here that the number of recalls is not completely indicative of build quality, and, often, the majority of a given car’s recalls occur in the first few years of a car’s new generation, as automakers work out various kinks. It also doesn’t tell you much about the relationship customers have with dealerships; a friend of mine once bought a recent year Land Rover Discovery, which had so many issues that he described his relationship with his dealer in Brooklyn as having “shared custody,” of the car, a situation he did not mind, he said, because they were such lovely people.
In its release, iSeeCars.com also doles out some buying advice based on its rankings:
“Recall rates can vary between makes and models,” said iSeeCars’ Executive Analyst Karl Brauer, “but the extreme variation in the number of recalls a car is projected to receive over its lifetime is something we didn’t expect. For consumers who don’t want to deal with a recall, the top models offer a substantially lower risk than even average models, such as the Chevrolet Equinox or Honda Ridgeline, with four predicted lifetime recalls. Avoiding a recall by owning a highly rated model, like the Hyundai Elantra GT or Mercedes CLA, means less time spent scheduling a dealer visit, taking the vehicle in, and waiting for repairs to be made.”
The idea that you should be trying to predict how many recalls a car you are considering buying may or may not have over the term that you will be its owner is a bit silly and I recommend addressing higher priorities first, like whether the car fits your needs, and whether you can afford it. You may also want to consider whether the car you want to buy is desirable, which is the standard that many Tesla owners apply, all those recalls be damned.