News about recalls has frequently been headlines lately, but what about recalls in the past? With the Takata air bag debacle tragically taking now eight lives, mostly in Honda vehicles, what kind of context can be given to the current crisis? Here's a rundown on three other fatal recalls in the past.
1. Ford Pinto and Mercury Bobcat (1978)
One of the highest selling subcompacts of the 70s, the Ford Pinto's popularity quickly became infamy. Its poorly placed gas tank could rupture during rear-end collisions, causing it to explode. The actual recall took place in 1978, and targeted the Pinto's sister car the Mercury Bobcat as well. But the most scandalous aspect to the story was the fact Ford knew of the problem but after crunching numbers, decided it was more feasible to pay settlements for injuries and deaths than redesign the gas tank. Ford became the first auto company to be indicted and prosecuted on criminal homicide charges, as they recalled 1.5 million Pintos and 30,000 Bobcats, but the damage was already done. An estimated 500 lives were lost to the faulty design.
2. Toyota Corolla (2010)
While no one has lost a life yet in a Toyota vehicle in the Takata scandal, they had their own recall problems not too long ago. A gas pedal defect caused the 2010 Corolla to become stuck during full-throttle acceleration. Unable to stop the vehicle in this state, 31 drivers lost their lives in accidents. The company recalled 9 million cars in total.
3. Ford (1981)
While not a normal recall, the NHTSA still classifies this massive Ford failure as a recall of sorts. In 1981, 21 million Ford vehicles, including Mercury and Lincoln cars, were recalled due to a transmission slippage issue—even when appearing in park they could fall into reverse. Despite the chaos that cars unexpectedly rolling backwards created, a recall didn't come till 1981, with the affected vehicles stretching back to 1970. Ford was still able to avoid paying for repairs by instead sending warning labels to automatic transmission owners. The Center for Auto Safety reported that as of 1980 there had been “6,000 accidents, 1,710 injuries, and 98 fatalities…directly attributable to transmission slippage.”
Are Recalls Getting Worse?
Unfortunately more vehicles than ever have been recalled this year than any previous year. With so many recall letters going out, make sure to be diligent and check the NHTSA website if you're in doubt whether your vehicle is at risk.