The greatest automotive recalls in history, vol.1 

2020-08-30 • 4 min read

The greatest automotive recalls in history, vol.1 
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The automobile industry often performs acts of gross negligence (and we don’t just mean the abomination that is the Fiat Multipla). The cars covered by automotive recalls can number in the millions, while their losses number in the billions. The worst part is that these recalls are often necessitated by quite silly mistakes. These automobile recalls shook the Earth right down to its ooey-gooey metal core. And don’t forget: you can always check whether your car (or the one you’re thinking of buying) has been recalled by checking on CarVertical’s website.

Toyota, 2009-2011

Third-generation Priuses are popular with transportation services in not yet fully developed countries. These taxis’ clients were well acquainted with feeling like sardines in tin cans, of course, but we digress. Ten years ago, Toyota had to recall a ton of its products because of a major issue - the accelerator pedal would get stuck under the floor mat. That’s great if you are, for some inconceivable reason, drag racing a third-generation Prius, but decidedly less great if you’re a taxi approaching a taxi stop or a wall. The worst part is that Toyota didn’t initially understand the nature of the problem, so the recall had to happen over two stages. 

Models recalled:  Toyota Camry XV40, Toyota Corolla E150, Toyota Highlander XU40, Toyota Prius XW20, Toyota Tundra, Lexus ES 350 GSV40, Lexus IS 250 GSE20, some others.

Cars recalled: about 9 mil. 

General Motors, 2014

Imagine this: you’re driving along when your car’s engine suddenly shuts off. If that’s not enough, your airbags also stop working. Unfortunately, this made for a lethal combination that contributed to 124 deaths. This little cock-up, which affected multiple models, cost the American giant about 4 billion in damages.

Models recalled:  Oldsmobile Alero, Pontiac Grand AM, Chevrolet Impala, Pontiac Grand Prix, Cadillac CTS, Cadillac SRX, others.

Cars recalled: about 8.4 mil.

Ford Motor Co., 2005-2009

This one took a while for Ford to figure out. A speed control system and brake fluid that went together like oil and water caused a cascade of other potentially fatal defects in Ford vehicles. Their inner workings were so ass-backwards that there would often be chains of failures: dripping hydraulic fluid would cause rust that could lead to smoke, fire, and other headaches. There were cases where parked cars would spontaneously catch fire. Want to know the best part? They’d had similar problems before.

Models recalled: Ford Ranger, Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, Lincoln Town Car, Lincoln Mark VIII, Ford Taurus SHO, Mercury Capri, Ford Explorer... many others.

Cars recalled: about 8 mil.

Ford Motor Co., 1999

In this case, Fords speed control systems ran the risk of spontaneously combusting and… wait, didn’t we already this part? No, turns out they’ve got a knack for this. Ah, the wonders of assembly line manufacturing.

Models recalled: Lincoln Town Car, Crown Victoria, Grand Marquise.

Cars recalled: TOTAL from 1999 to 2009: about 15 mil.

Ford Motor Co., 1996

In these cases, users would often find fire coming out of… nope, sorry, wrong. This time, it was the ignition switch. They received about 1,100 reports that had led to about 30 injuries. During court procedures, it turned out that Ford had known about these problems for at least a year before the recall. Fun music fact: Prodigy’s hit song “Firestarter” was actually written about Ford ignition switches. Probably.

Models recalled: many Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models made in 1988-1993.

Cars recalled: about 8 mil.

Volkswagen, 2016

This classic incident has impacted everyone who enjoys the immediate torque of a diesel engine the moment they touch the accelerator. Someone figure out how to extract data from VW vehicles’ operating systems and discovered that they were falsifying emissions data. Furthermore, this was done to cover up the fact that the data did not at all meet EU regulations. Now, in order to meet more stringent regulations, VW and other manufacturers have been forced to digitally limit the power of their vehicles. Now, driving these cars is like trying to win a bicycle race on an exercise bike. A big thank you to the engineers who couldn’t keep their mouths shut! By the way, this entire ordeal cost VW about 15 billion euros.

Models recalled: which ones you know? Golf, Jetta, Passat, and others.

Cars recalled: almost 9 mil.

To be continued!

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