Biggest automobile recalls and Largest food recalls, like death and taxes, are an unfortunate part of life. Every year, it seems like a new recall for something we possess is issued, with horror stories about the dangers of using it in the media. Recalls are a prominent topic in today’s news cycle and a regular cause of annoyance for millions of consumers, from exploding smartphones to lead paint in toys.
Automobiles are no exception. In fact, when we hear the word “recall,” we generally think of automobiles. This is unfortunate because auto recalls are the most likely to result in death or injury. Some auto recalls have even entered our language, either because of the number of deaths they caused or because of the way companies handled the situations.
When it comes to car companies, the cliche “the bigger they come, the harder they fall” certainly holds true. Aside from dealing with the economy’s ups and downs, carmakers must avoid (but be prepared for) the dreaded recall.
Recalls not only harm a company’s bottom line (recalling vehicles is an expensive business), but they also harm the brand’s reputation. However, American carmakers Ford and General Motors have been involved in six of the top ten recalls in history and are still in business.
Here are the 5 biggest automobile recalls that have made drivers nervous about getting behind the wheel.
Biggest Automobile Recalls in the History
- Volkswagen Emissions Scandal
Volkswagen was accused of modifying its cars to avoid federal emissions regulations, forever tarnishing the reputation of a global brand. Regulators discovered a program in VW’s turbo-diesel cars in 2015 that was designed to fool EPA emissions tests and make it appear like the company was complying with the agency’s demands. In truth, the cars were emitting more carbon than would otherwise have been allowed which resulted in one of the biggest automobile recalls.
Nearly all of VW’s TDI vehicles were recalled, top executives were arrested and imprisoned, and the turbo diesel business in the United States nearly collapsed.
- Takata Airbags
Nearly 4 million cars were recalled in 2013 due to defective airbags that contained sharp metal shards that, if deployed, could kill the driver. As the extent of the crisis rose, so did the number of recalls, making it one of the greatest in automotive history.
Since there are so many cars with Takata airbags, it’s possible that not all of them will be replaced, and more cars could be added to the list as the investigation continues.
- GM ignition switch
General Motors announced one of the biggest automobile recalls of 30 million cars owing to a defect that resulted in over 100 deaths, in an act of corporate mismanagement that rocked the industry. In early 2014, it was discovered that a faulty ignition switch in some GM models allowed the cars to randomly switch to accessory mode, often while driving, preventing the airbags from deploying when the car crashed.
Allegations that GM was aware of the problems for years but did little to address them caused outrage across the industry.
- Firestone tires
Firestone tires is one of the biggest automobile recalls that may or may not be their fault. Reports of the Ford Explorer rolling over made headlines in the 1990s. The tires used, Firestones, were discovered to have spontaneously deteriorated without notice in nearly every case, often while the tires were still fresh.
Ford blamed Firestone for the problem, claiming that the Explorer had nothing wrong with it that caused the accident. Meanwhile, Firestone blamed Ford for the problem, claiming that it only impacted the company’s vehicles.
- Toyota’s floor mats/accelerator pedals
Toyota was forced to issue an embarrassing and costly recall at the beginning of the century owing to accelerator pedals that remained stuck in position and prevented breaking. People who found themselves flying down the highway with no means to stop were all over the news. Floor mats were first blamed, since a poor latch system caused them to become stuck up and over the gas pedal, compressing it.
While this may have been a problem at the time, it was later discovered that the pedals themselves would become stuck in place regardless of where the floor mats were put.