Top 10 largest car recalls in American history
This week’s recall of 7.43 million Toyotas for a faulty power window switch that could catch fire has been billed as one of the largest in history. But how big is it really?
It didn’t even make the top 10, ranking only 16th on a list of the 21 largest recalls in the United States, according to data tracked by the Center for Automotive Safety. This Toyota recall impacts 2.5 million vehicles, making it about about half the size of the larger of Toyota’s two recalls for unintended acceleration in 2009.
Looking at their entire recall list, several facts stand out:
- Recalls didn’t start until 1969, with the founding of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- Ford Motor Company has the three largest recalls, by far, on the list, due to electrical components – ignition switches in 1981 and cruise-control switches in 1999 – that were installed across the company’s entire lineup.
- The solution to the largest recall in history, for Ford transmissions that failed to engage Park, amounted to no more than dealers installing a warning sticker. Well, I feel so much safer with that sticker on board.
- The industry has made an awful lot of progress since General Motors downsized its “A-body” lineup in 1978 that included the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and El Camino. The ’78 A-Body amassed perhaps the three most alarming recalls, for collapsing front suspensions, jamming steering mechanisms, and wheels and axles falling off. (My father drove three and could have vouched for several of these maladies.)
- The latest Toyota recall is nearly 20 percent larger than Toyota’s 2009 recall for sticking accelerators; the company’s parallel floor mat recall didn’t make the list.
- Other than the Toyota recalls, foreign companies are not well represented on the list. That’s not to say they are without blemishes on their record, just that the scale didn’t reach Top 10 proportions. For example, Japanese automakers had some problems with seat-belt buckles in the 1980s. And Volkswagen had one recall that mirrored Ford’s problems with installing a single faulty component (windshield wipers) across its entire lineup for many years.
|Largest U.S. vehicle recalls
||# of vehicles
||Ford cars & trucks
||Transmissions that fail to engage Park
||Ford cars & trucks
||Cruise control deactivation switch fires
||Ford Taurus, Explorer, Probe & Mercury Sable
||Ignition switch fires
||Chevrolet cars & trucks
||Unintended acceleration due to broken motor mounts
||General Motors A-body cars
||Lower control arm bolt failures can lead to suspension collapse
||Unintended acceleration risk due to floor mat interference
||All Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys
||Shoulder belt pins
||All full-size Buicks, Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs
||Rock can jam in steering coupling
||Honda Civic, Accord, Prelude; Acura Integra, Legend, NSX
||Seat belt buckle jams