If there’s one thing no one appreciates, it’s a recall. Drivers hate them, car manufacturers hate them, dealers hate them… the only people who don’t seem to mind them, in fact, are the newspapers who get a few snarky headlines out of them. Best case scenario, the recall will be over something trivial, like a GPS that doesn’t know how to pronounce a street name properly maybe. Worst case scenario, it’s over something that could lead to injures or even deaths. Fortunately, Mercedes has historically been pretty lucky when it comes to recalls, at least in terms of numbers. Like almost every other car manufacturer, they got caught up in the massive Takata airbag scandal, but by and large, most of their recalls only affect a small number of cars. Mostly, anyway. But every now and again, something comes along to take the wind out of their sails. Without further ado, here are the five biggest Mercedes recalls in history.
5. Brake System Recall
In 2017, Mercedes issued a recall against 5800 of its top-selling cars, including the 2015 SLK 250 and the 2016 SLK 350. The ultra-high-end 2017 SLC 43 AMG and the 2017 SLC 43 AMG were also drawn in. The problem, as lemonlawcourt.com explains, came down to brakes… or rather, a faulty electronic stability program software that made the brakes on affected vehicles malfunction, smoke, and in some cases, cause a fire. Mercedes first started suspecting a problem in 2016, but they weren’t able to replicate it in test conditions. By the following year, too many angry customers had called into their customer service department complaining of smoking cars for them to ignore it any longer. They issued a mass recall, discovered the root of the problem, and promptly put it to right.
4. Limiter Recall
Most recalls in Mercedes’ history have affected between 64 and 10,000 cars per recall. They don’t happen that often, and when they do, the usual line is that it’s more of a precautionary measure than a genuine problem. 2017 was different. That was the year the marque was forced to recall over 354,00 vehicles from the 2015, 2016, and 2017 model years. This time, they weren’t doing it as a precaution. This was serious. Cars had started going up in flames, and when that happens, people tend to get worried… big time. There’s buyer’s remorse and then there’s seeing the car you’ve just spend all your savings on go up in smoke. Mercedes’ reputation was in danger of blowing up with their cars, so they did the only thing they could – they got them all into a dealership to be checked out. According to yahoo, the problem came down to the starting current limiter. Like all other limiters, its basic function was to prevent fuse overloads and protect other components from getting damaged. Unfortunately, this particular limiter didn’t do a great job at protecting itself from damage. During tests, it was found that if the stater was blocked due to engine transmission damage, a very high electrical current would flow through the limiter when the driver tried to start up. This would prevent the car from starting but if the driver continued to try, the electric current draw could lead to overheating of the limiter. This could then lead to other components melting and, in certain situations, even cause a fire.
3. Taillight Recall
2014 was a bad year for recalls. As the LA Times reports, almost every car manufacturer had been forced to call back huge numbers of vehicles. General Motors called back 6 million cars and SUVs over a faulty ignition switch that had been linked to 13 deaths. Mazda recalled 109,000 of its Tribute sport utility vehicles for steering failures. BMW called back almost half a million sports sedans and SUVs, including 156,000 in the US, over an engine problem. Nissan recalled 1 million Altima and Sentra sedans, Toyota recalled 700,000 Toyota Prius hybrids, Ford recalled more than 400,00 cars to fix faulty seats, and Honda recalled 900,000 Honda Odyssey minivans. Mercedes didn’t manage to escape either. After discovering that a weak electrical connection could cause failure or dimming of taillights and brake lights, which in turn could increase the risk of a rear-end crash by reducing a driver’s ability to flag their intention to stop or turn to other drivers, it was forced to issue a recall of 284,000 vehicles. Vehicles affected included the C300, C300 4Matic, C350, and C63 MG from model years 2007 to 2011.
2. Emergency Call Recall
2021 didn’t get off to a flying start for Mercedes. In February, it issued a recall against almost 1.3 million vehicles from the 2016 through 2021 model years. As MSN reports, the problem came down to the emergency communication module software, which was causing confusion with emergency services and leading to potentially disastrous consequences for drivers by indicating the wrong location in road accidents. Fortunately, Mercedes became aware of the problem after a single report was made in Europe and before any major issues happened. A fix was managed through an over-the-air update in most cases, and a trip to the dealership in others.
1. Takata Airbag Recall
If you want to see anyone in the car industry go grey in the face, whisper the words “Takata airbag” in their ear. The biggest ever recall in automotive history began in 2013, and it’s still ongoing to this day. The problem started when the now-bankrupt Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata decided to equip their airbags with the same ammonium nitrate that destroyed the Port of Beirut. The airbags had an unfortunate habit of violently exploding, often expelling metal shrapnel into the driver and passenger when they did. According to Autowise, the defective airbags, which Takata supplied to 16 major auto manufactures from across the world, have now been responsible for 25 deaths and almost 300 injuries worldwide. To date, a staggering 100 million vehicles have been recalled globally. Although Mercedes wasn’t as badly affected as some other marques, it didn’t get away scot-free, recalling almost 1 million vehicles in total. It may have been less than certain other brands, but Mercedes’ reputation has taken a significant battering nonetheless, not helped by the numerous court cases (some of which are still ongoing) that have alleged that not only was Mercedes slow to react to the problem, but actually helped create it in the first place by being “intimately involved” in the design and testing of the airbags.