Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Top Deadliest Recall Or Automotive Issues

Cheating, safety recalls, defects, these are all part of the automotive industry’s reality.

  • Many car manufacturers know what’s going on before a recall is issued.

  • Often, recalls and defects are a result of cost-cutting measures.

  • Emerging technologies will not put an end to recalls, and other safety-related issues.

Following the publication of my overview of Volkswagen a few days ago, I received a handful of comments and all of them more or less said the same thing: Volkswagen are criminals, have a blatant disregard for humans, the environment and should be further punished. In the story, I do mention that everyone has an opinion of the brand hence why I rarely engage in debates over the brand. Having said this, here are some specs in relation to #dieselgate:

1-Issue: Cheat device installed on diesel-powered vehicles that deactivated emission controls allowing particulate emissions to soar to 40 times the legal limit.

2- Vehicles affected: All TDI-equipped VW vehicles found in the Golf, Passat, Jetta, and many more sold between 2009 and 2015. Audi and Porsche vehicles also involved.

3- Number of affected vehicles: 11 million.

4- Related deaths:  Varies greatly but between 10 and 350 premature deaths according to various sources. 55-60 are the more widely accepted numbers.

5- Fines/costs: Up to $35 billion.

The emails did however inspire me to remind many that the makers of your beloved vehicle probably acted just as, or more, heinously at one point or another in their history. Safety recalls are extremely common however not all are equal. Over the last 30 years or so, some recalls have proven to be more necessary than others and in a number of instances, even when the issue was noted and communicated, the manufacturer did not act accordingly. Volkswagen knew all along what they were doing, and, with little doubt, so did these carmakers.

The following are some of the deadliest safety defects which were eventually recalled. The numbers associated with the recalls are as confirmed and corroborated as possible from various sources including the NHTSA, the IIHS, The Center for Auto Safety, Wikipedia, and others.


1- Ignition Switches. Switches could fall into the “off” mode and cut the engine while running.

GM knew of the issue for at least a decade prior to the recall.

2- Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Saturn Ion, and others built from 2005 to 2007.

3- Roughly 10 million vehicles.

4- At least 150 deaths (many more according to some experts) and countless injuries.

5- Over $3 billion.

2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee | Photo: FCA


1- Exploding gas tanks in a rear impact.

FCA argued for three years that the vehicles were safe.

2- 2002-07 Jeep Liberty and 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee.

3- 2.7 million vehicles.

4- More than 55 deaths (since 1998).

5- They worked out a “deal” to install tow bars on affected vehicles as a “fix” which many considered inadequate.

Firestone Tires

1- Tire tread separation.

2- Tires found mostly on Ford Explorers and Rangers from the 1990s and early 2000s.

3- Up to 15 million tires.

4- Nearly 300 deaths and over 800 injuries.

5- Approximately $1 million.

2019 Ford Ranger XLT | Photo: Matt St-Pierre


1- Cruise control deactivation switch fires. Defective switch would short circuit and start fires in parked vehicles. Related to Ford ignition switch fires.

The issue was known for a decade in the late 90s into the late 2000s.

2- Ford Windstar, Excursion diesel, F-Super Duty diesel, Econoline, Explorer, Ranger, and others manufactured between 1995 and 2003.

3- More than 14 million vehicles.

4- Has caused numerous house and garage fires and several deaths.


1- Defective airbags. In the case of deployment, fragments can go flying inside the vehicle.

2- Audi, BMW, GM, Honda, Jeep, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and many, many more.

3- More than 42 million (up to 53 million) vehicles.

4- Between 15 and 20 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

5- Over $1.2 billion plus company bankruptcy.

2005 Lexus ES | Photo: Lexus

Toyota and Lexus

1- Unintended Acceleration.

Toyota knew of the issue before the recall was released.

2- Many models sold between 2002 and 2009 including the Lexus ES, Toyota Camry and Corolla.

3- More than 10 million vehicles.

4- Almost 90 deaths.

5- Approximately $5 billion.

There are also numerous examples of manufacturers falsifying their fuel-economy data over the decades, including Mitsubishi and Hyundai. In a very real way, the cars and SUVs sold by these carmakers polluted far more than originally expected. And this practice, be it cheating on fuel economy numbers or emissions dates back well into the 1970s at Ford, for example.

I’m certainly not exonerating Volkswagen from any wrong-doing however it’s quite obvious that the majority of major car companies have at one point or another in their history cheated the system.

If we go back 40 or 50 years, defects and recalls from Ford, Chrysler and GM involved tens of millions of vehicles however not all of them resulted in deaths or injuries. Issues, be they mechanical or, increasingly, technological, and safety defects are part of the automotive industry, as is making decisions based solely on the bottom line.

2015 Volkswagen Golf | Photo: Volkswagen


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Matt St-Pierre
Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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