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Really? Top 10 California Lemon Law Cars of Last Year?

  Norman Taylor & Associates
  June 23, 2013

Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration these are quite possibly the top 10 lemon automobiles of last year.To be specific, last year drivers filed just under 30,000 complaints about their automobiles with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The complaints included problems with brakes, powertrains and every other part of the car imaginable. The most complained about automobiles are not necessarily the least popular ones. They include some of the most purchased automobiles in America and some of the least. Dodgeand Nissan, which sold more than 5 million vehicles from 2005 through 2012, had the fifth and sixth most complaints per every 100,000 vehicles sold. Other makes with a high number of complaints per vehicle, like Mini, sold less than 100,000 units per year.

To determine the ten car brands with the most complaints , 24/7 Wall St. reviewed sales figures and information on complaint submissions to the NHTSA published by for the year 2012. They then calculated the complaints made in 2012 per every 100,000 vehicles sold by brand between 2005 and 2012. Makes were excluded from the list if complaints figures were not available or if the car brand was no longer actively manufactured and sold in the United States eliminating Mercury and Saturn.

References to the most complained about model are only in reference to complaints made in February 2013. Loyalty figures, which represent the percentage of drivers turning in a car who intend to buy a new vehicle from the same make, were also provided by for 2012. The following are the automobiles with the most safety complaints:

10. Hyundai

  • Complaints per 100k sold: 27.96
  • Total 2012 complaints: 1,025
  • Model with most complaints: Sonata
  • 2012 sales: 703,007

9. Ford

  • Complaints per 100k sold: 33.95
  • Total 2012 complaints: 4,958
  • Model with most complaints: Escape
  • 2012 sales: 2,168,392


  • Complaints per 100k sold: 34.52
  • Total 2012 complaints: 667
  • Model with most complaints: Jetta
  • 2012 sales: 438,134

7. BMW

  • Complaints per 100k sold: 36.78
  • Total 2012 complaints: 676
  • Model with most complaints: 3 Series
  • 2012 sales: 281,460

6. Nissan

  • Complaints per 100k sold: 38.89
  • Total 2012 complaints: 2,485
  • Model with most complaints: Altima
  • 2012 sales: 1,021,779

5. Dodge

  • Complaints per 100k sold: 39.21
  • Total 2012 complaints: 2,304
  • Model with most complaints: Grand Caravan
  • 2012 sales: 524,989

4. Chrysler

  • Complaints per 100k sold: 40.78
  • Total 2012 complaints: 1,166
  • Model with most complaints: Town & Country
  • 2012 sales: 307,967

3. Smart

  • Complaints per 100k sold: 56.59
  • Total 2012 complaints: 25
  • Model with most complaints: ForTwo
  • 2012 sales: 10,009

2. Jeep

  • Complaints per 100k sold: 69.48
  • Total 2012 complaints: 2,036
  • Model with most complaints: Wrangler
  • 2012 sales: 474,131

1. Mini

  • Complaints per 100k sold: 123.60
  • Total 2012 complaints: 427
  • Model with most complaints: Cooper
  • 2012 sales: 66,123

No car brand received more complaints per 100,000 vehicles sold since 2005 in 2012 than Mini. With over 25 years of experience helping consumers with their California lemon law claims, there is a rather small percentage of people who file formal complaints with NHTSA regarding the defects they are experiencing with their vehicles. Reports like these, despite their limitations, supply consumers with information that can be very helpful in their car buying research. Car dealers very rarely get into the common problems with the products they are selling, as a result consumers are left in the dark. Fortunately organizations like NHTSA have been doing their best to keep consumers informed and protected from life threatening defects.

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