10 Largest Auto Recalls in History
Recalls aren't pleasant for anyone — automaker or vehicle owner. But they are necessary. Here are the worst we've seen to date.
Traditionally, product recalls are a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" proposition for automakers. Companies that diligently raise a recall flag run the risk that their competition will use the recall as an example of their own brand's superiority; those caught hiding a known defect until it's too late are often crucified in the media. The public has softened its view of recalls in recent years, and a recall or two no longer labels a model as a lemon for eternity. Manufacturers have also seen the light and now approach recalls in a proactive, concerned manner, as opposed to the reactionary backpedaling and denials with which they met federal recall actions in the past.
The auto industry probably will never be free of consumer-troubling recalls. It's inevitable: As vehicles become more advanced and use increasing numbers of complex electrical and mechanical systems, there are going to be a few problems.
Let's take a look at 10 of the largest recalls to date.
10. General Motors, 2004
Defect: Tailgate cable failure
Units affected: 3.66 million
Models affected: 1999-2004 Chevrolet Avalanche and Silverado; Cadillac Escalade; GMC Sierra
Date: March 2004
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration action number: PE03049
What happened: Between 1999 and 2004, 134 customers suffered minor accidents when tailgate cables corroded and failed and tailgates collapsed. According to GM, customers were clearly warned in the vehicles' operating instructions not to stand on open tailgates, but GM offered to replace the cables in 2004. It's worth noting that the galvanized-steel cables are fully exposed and in full view whenever the tailgate is operated — it seems a worn cable would be obvious. Here's betting more of the accidents happened in stadium parking lots than on construction sites.
9. Volkswagen, 1972
Defect: Loose windshield wipers
Units affected: 3.7 million
Models affected: 1949-'69 Beetle
Date: October 1972
NHTSA campaign number: 72V256000
What happened: Windshield wipers are essential for visibility, but for decades VW's wiper arms were notorious for working themselves loose and falling off. After years of customer complaints, VW finally relented in 1972 and agreed to replace the windshield wipers on millions of Volkswagens with an improved design that actually remained attached to vehicles during repeated use. Anyone old enough to remember how poorly the Beetle's noisy yet ineffective defroster worked will question how owners even knew their wipers were missing in the first place.
8. Honda, 1995
Defect: Faulty seatbelt buckle
Units affected: 3.7 million
Models affected: 1986-1991 Acura Legend, Integra and NSX; Honda Accord, Civic and Prelude
Date: May 1995
NHTSA campaign number: 95V103001
What happened: In the mid-1990s, Honda dealers noticed that the plastic seatbelt-release buttons on several of its models were failing, and that bits of broken plastic occasionally were falling into the seatbelt assembly and preventing it from properly securing the belt. Unfortunately, drivers may not have been aware of the situation until the assembly was under stress, such as in accident.
7. GM, 1973
Defect: Stone-guard assembly
Units affected: 3.71 million
Models affected: 1971-'72 Buick Centurion, Electra, Estate Wagon, LeSabre and Riviera; Chevrolet Bel Air, Biscayne, Brookwood, Caprice, Impala, Kingswood, Kingswood Estate and Townsman; Oldsmobile 88 and 98; Pontiac Bonneville, Grand Ville and Catalina
Date: January 1973
NHTSA campaign number: 73V013000
What happened: Apparently, large stones could lodge between the steering coupling and the frame of these GM heavyweights, preventing the operator from turning the vehicle to the left. Thankfully, GM remedied the situation with a quick and easy retrofit of a stone-guard assembly, protecting Americans' right to turn left.
6. Ford, 1972
Defect: Seatbelts fraying and detaching
Units affected: 4.07 million
Models affected: 1970-'71 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles
Date: June 1972
NHTSA campaign number: 72V160000
What happened: When it comes to vehicle-occupant safety, it's hard to beat a shoulder harness. But they aren't worth a dime if they fail under pressure like Gary Busey on an episode of "The Apprentice." So when a small plastic part on the shoulder harness of these vehicles began to crumble under pressure — possibly due to a molding defect — Ford did the right thing and implemented an inexpensive fix to keep passengers safe and in place under duress.
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Toyota has earned the mantle of being the car company that blames its defects on its customers. At least the U.S makers take responsablity for their mistakes.
That being stated I see Chrysler didn't end up in the editors sights.
This is kind of like the JD powers report of what is the best car, its simply amusing to say the least.
Buy American keep America working...
It does seem to me that Toyota should be at the top of the list..... But its not even shown.. I don't know but this appears to me to like more of the under the table, back room politics that has plagued this industry for years.
It truly smacks of Southern style politics.. Aren't the majority of these foreign car companies located in the south. And doesn't the majority of their profits go directly to the foreign countries...
These countries have tried for years to take over our country with their inferior products and false advertising .. The American auto industry has certainly begun a turn around and articles like this just try to stem American productivity...
I really think its time for America stop listening to this type of slanted propaganda and regain our national pride once more....
My '64 VW's original wipers are somehow still in place (and work great!) after 48 years of service... Heater and defroster still works great too. Must be a lemon. Who writes these articles? I've been into VW's my whole life, and have never of wiper problems. I've driven my '64 for the last ten years and 60k miles, with zero wiper problems. And a noisy heater? There was no heater fan, apart from the engine cooling fan which makes the same noise all the time, and isn't any louder when the heater vents are open. Has the author ever even been in a VW?