This year Toyota, along with its Scion and Lexus sub-brands, had to recall 3.5 million vehicles, a tally that does not include the many vehicles for which Toyota also delivered technical service bulletins, which flag problems and defects that need fixing without rising to the level of recall.
Toyota again topped the list in a year when automakers as a whole got better, with total recalls declining from 17.2 million last year to 13 million this year, according to WardsAuto.
The Japanese automaker's two big problems were replacing and fixing swiveling floor mats that impaired the acceleration in a Lexus and a catchy throttle that netted unintended power boosts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hit Toyota with hefty fines because of its sluggish response to safety concerns.
By comparison, Ford recalled 3.2 million vehicles and Honda placed third in recalls with 2 million.
But the net effect of this negative distinction could be most damaging for Toyota. That's not to say the brand can't recover.
"It is surprising to many that Toyota leads automakers in recalls because the company has such a strong reputation for quality," says AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley. "But it is that reputation and track record that has a lot of its customers willing to give Toyota plenty of chances to get things right."
Toyota's floormat and throttle problems were the biggest quality set-back in the company's history. But it seems to be getting things back on track. Consumer Reports recently recommended the new 2012 Camry, and though Lexus lost the title of top-selling luxury brand to Mercedes in 2011, the much-lauded redesign of the Lexus GS should help the brand gain some lost ground in the new year.
Toyota and Lexus sales in 2011 were also negatively impacted by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which damaged auto plants and Japan's transportation and energy infrastructure.