NHTSA Data Reveals Top Three Lemon Cars


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks a tremendous amount of data about vehicles, car defects, and other safety issues. Lemberg Law has analyzed NHTSA data going back to 1995 and discovered startling patterns.

Consumer Complaints

Among other things, the NHTSA compiles consumer vehicle complaints, which in turn can trigger technical service bulletins (TSBs) and vehicle recalls. Over the years, the number of complaints has steady increased. In the mid to late 1990s, there were about 35,000 complaints per year. In the early 2000s, there were 50,000 to 60,000 complaints per year. That number dropped a bit in the late 2000s, before jumping to 80,000 in 2010. Then there was a downtick, followed by a surge in 2014 to 112,000 complaints. This was likely related to a series of issues, including the General Motors faulty ignition switch, that culminated in a recall of 60 million vehicles that year. Since 2014, the number of complaints per year has hovered around 100,000.

Drilling down to specific makes and models, there are three that stand out for having received the most consumer complaints: the 2000 Ford Focus, 1995 Ford Windstar, and 2010 Ford Fusion.

Injuries and Deaths

The NHTSA injury and death data reflect injuries and deaths related only to vehicle complaints. For example, although the 2015 data show that 174 people died as a result of car issues or defects, there were a total of 35,092 fatalities due to traffic crashes that same year. There does not appear to be a correlation between the number of complaints and the number of deaths. Injuries related to technical issues do appear to be correlated to the number of complaints, with injuries mirroring the increase and decrease of complaints over the years.

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