If it seems like you’re always hearing about vehicles being recalled for dangerous or faulty parts, it’s because you are! Thanks to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pressuring automakers to recall more vehicles in recent years, the number of NHTSA recalls issued has been rising drastically. Before 2014, vehicle recalls for automotive defects ranged from 10 to 30 million vehicles affected each year. Since 2014, we’ve seen record-setting safety recalls of 50 million vehicles or more. This infographic’s timeline paves the path of the biggest automotive safety recalls of all time and their cost, not only in fines and penalties but in human life as well.
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What Is the Biggest Automotive Recall?
The biggest automotive recall took place in 1981 when the Ford Motor Company had to recall 21 million vehicles because of a defective parking gear that would allow the transmission to slip into reverse after being shifted into park. This parking defect led to 6,000 accidents and 1,710 injuries and killed 98 people. Instead of Ford recalling vehicles, they mailed out warning labels to more than 21 million owners of Ford vehicles. These warning labels instructed them to set the parking brake and shut off the ignition before exiting the vehicle. This method of correcting the issue only cost Ford $10 million in printing and mailing costs, rather than the much higher costs they would have faced by recalling and replacing all of the defective parking gears.
The 10 Biggest Automotive Recalls
- Ford Motor Company: 21 million (1981)
- Ford Motor Company: 9 million (2004)
- Toyota: 9 million (2009-10)
- Ford Motor Company:7 million (1996)
- General Motors:7 million (1971)
- Toyota:5 million (2015)
- Honda:3 million (2015)
- General Motors:9 million (2014)
- General Motors:4 million (1981)
- Chrysler:8 million (2018)
Which Automotive Recall Was the Most Expensive?
The General Motors 2014 recall of faulty ignition switches was the most expensive automotive recall in history, costing an estimated $2.5 billion in penalties and settlements, including a $900 million settlement for a U.S. Department of Justice criminal case. The expenses don’t stop there, though, as General Motors has been forced to settle more claims over the years, including $120 million in 2017 for lawsuits from victims of the faulty switches.
How to Tell if Your Vehicle Has a Recall
To find out if your vehicle has a recall, you can go to the NHTSA’s recalls page and enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This tool will alert you to any safety recalls from the past 15 years that may affect your vehicle.