38 Car Recalls Linked to Deaths and Injuries That Shocked the World

Patrick Oziegbe
Published On:

Picture this: You’re driving your new car, its engine humming smoothly, when suddenly, it goes quiet – a defect has surfaced, threatening your safety. This scenario is not mere fiction; it’s a chapter from the real-life drama of automotive recalls. In this article, we’ll look at 38 significant car recalls that have rocked the industry and made us rethink our trust in modern vehicles.

These stories, marked by design flaws and the quest for safety, will alter your perspective on cars. We’ll dissect the industry’s commitment to excellence and safety, showing how these pivotal moments have driven innovation and solidified the relationship between manufacturers, regulators, and drivers. Get ready for a revealing journey.

Ford Transmission Recall (1980)

Ford Cars Recall 1980s
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In 1980, Ford faced a significant problem with its C-3, C-4, C-6, FMX, and JATCO automatic transmissions slipping from park to reverse due to a design flaw. The NHTSA received roughly 23,000 complaints. Ford circumvented a large-scale recall by issuing warning labels for the affected vehicles, marking a notable event in automotive history.

Audi 5000 (1986)

Audi 5000 (1986)
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In 1986, the Audi 5000 faced a significant recall issue due to sudden acceleration problems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prompted the recall, as it was linked to over 200 injuries and four deaths. The recall covered 1978 through 1986 models, with automatic transmission being the primary factor. This incident led to a consumer panic, which severely impacted Audi’s sales in the US for nearly two decades.

Honda Fit Recall (2014)

Honda Fit Junkyard Accidented (2014)
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In 2014, Honda recalled the Honda Fit due to airbag propellants sensitive to temperature fluctuations, humidity, and heat, which could cause inflator explosions and metal shrapnel injuries or fatalities. The NHTSA issued recall ID 18V661000 for this issue. Honda provided repairs to ensure customer safety.

Ford Explorer Firestone Tires (2000)

Wornout Car Tires
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In 2000, Ford Explorer SUVs and Firestone tires were at the center of a major recall due to tread separation that resulted in accidents and fatalities. The recall involved 6.5 million tires, primarily fitted on 1995-1998 Ford Explorers. The failures were linked to manufacturing processes and usage patterns, with Ford recommending tire pressures of 26 to 30 psi, while Firestone advised 30 psi.

Takata Airbag Recall

A car with a deployed Takata airbag
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The Takata Airbag Recall stands out in automotive history. It covers models from 2002 to 2015 and involves 67 million airbags, including those in Ferraris. The airbags could deploy with excessive force, leading to injuries or fatalities. Automakers have been actively resolving this significant safety concern.

Toyota Unintended Acceleration (2009)

A Toyota car speeding out of control
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The 2009 Toyota unintended acceleration crisis, triggered by a fatal Lexus sedan accident, prompted a recall of 4.2 million vehicles. Subsequent U.S. government and media investigations followed. Toyota took the lessons seriously and worked to fix the problem.

Chevrolet Cobalt (2010)

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In 2014, the 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt was part of a major recall for ignition switch problems, affecting over 2.1 million vehicles. The defect led to stalling and airbag failures. Chevrolet responded by replacing the faulty switches to restore the Cobalt’s reliability.

GM’s 2014 Ignition Switch Recall

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In 2014, General Motors (GM) faced a major scandal involving a faulty ignition switch. The issue had wide-reaching implications, prompting the recall of millions of vehicles across multiple models.

The initial recall, in February 2014, affected about 800,000 small cars. However, GM continued to recall more cars over the next months, eventually involving nearly 30 million vehicles. The problem with the faulty ignition switches was that they could shut off the engine during movement, disabling the airbags.

Ford Pinto (1978)

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In 1978, Ford faced a massive recall of 1.5 million Pintos due to fuel tank issues. This recall shocked the automotive world as the Pinto was a popular subcompact car. The main problem was the positioning of the fuel tank, which made it vulnerable to fires during rear-end collisions. Ford took action by recalling Pintos and Mercury Bobcats, fixing the fuel tank flaw.

Ford Cruise Control Recall (1996)

A car swerving on the highway
©Photo Credit: MiramarSpeedCircuit

In 1996, Ford recalled numerous vehicles, including F150, F250, and F350 trucks, due to faulty cruise control deactivation switches that risked causing fires. The remedy involved replacing the switches to secure the cruise control system’s safety. Ford aimed to restore consumer confidence by addressing the issue promptly.

Toyota Floor Mat Recall (2009)

Toyota Floor Mat
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In 2009, Toyota faced a major recall which involved 3.8 million vehicles due to an issue with floor mats. The problem arose from all-weather floor mats getting stuck and causing accelerator pedals to jam. This resulted in several accidents, even leading to a tragic, fatal incident.

Honda Airbag Recall (2008)

Damaged airbag
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In 2008, Honda encountered a serious issue with its airbags, resulting in multiple recalls. The initial 2016 recall impacted 341,444 vehicles from 2008 to 2010, including the 2008 Honda Accord. The airbag control units were prone to corrosion, potentially causing deployment failure. These Takata-supplied airbags risked explosive deployment, leading to severe injuries or deaths. This recall was part of the broader Takata Airbag Recall affecting various automakers.

Volkswagen Diesel Emissions (2015)

A line of Volkswagen cars
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In September 2015, the Volkswagen emissions scandal, also known as Dieselgate, shocked the automotive world. Volkswagen was accused of using illegal software to evade diesel emissions standards. This deception affected around 550,000 vehicles sold in the United States. VW faced a global recall of 8.5 million cars. The case had severe consequences for the company, leading to executive resignations and damage to their reputation.

Hyundai and Kia Engine Recalls (2015-2021)

Hyundai and Kia Engine
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Between 2015 and 2021, Hyundai and Kia faced a series of engine-related recalls that impacted millions of vehicles. The recalls were primarily due to the risk of engine compartment fires. Owners were advised to park their cars outdoors and check if their vehicle was affected by the recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also imposed consent orders on both automakers.

As a result, Hyundai and Kia entered into settlement agreements, covering a total of 4.2 million affected vehicles. These recalls and settlements significantly impacted the reputation of the two Korean automakers.

Jeep Fuel Tank Recall (2013)

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In 2013, Jeep faced a major recall involving their fuel tanks. The issue affected Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Grand Cherokee models from 2011 to 2013. Specific vehicles, such as those equipped with a 3.6L engine and an automatic transmission, were impacted. This recall was due to potential fuel tank leaks, posing a serious safety risk for customers.

Audi/Volkswagen Emissions Recall (2016)

A line of Audi and Volkswagen cars
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In 2016, Audi/Volkswagen faced a massive emissions recall involving 550,000 diesel vehicles in the US. A software cheating device circumvented emissions control. The scandal, known as Dieselgate impacted the brand’s reputation and led to fines and compensation efforts.

BMW Battery Connector Recall (2012)

Car Battery Connector
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In 2012, BMW recalled about 570,000 vehicles, including the 3 Series, 1 Series, and Z4, due to a battery connector issue. Cable connectors and a fuse-box terminal were degrading, leading to electrical failures. The fix required inspecting and replacing battery cable connectors to prevent risks. BMW owners were encouraged to visit authorized dealers for the necessary repairs.

Ford Fire Hazard Recall (2009)

Ford Car Fore Incident
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In 2009, Ford experienced the largest single recall in its history. Approximately 4.5 million vehicles were affected due to a fire hazard caused by a faulty switch. This recall raised serious safety concerns among car owners. Ford quickly acted to address the issue, highlighting the company’s commitment to customer safety.

Mitsubishi Montero Rollover (2001)

Mitsubishi Montero
Ford Car Fore Incident

In 2001, the Mitsubishi Montero faced a major recall due to a rollover risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovered a design issue that affected vehicle stability, increasing the chances of rollover accidents. Mitsubishi issued recalls to address the problem, ensuring the safety of Montero drivers. Follow-up inspections were conducted to guarantee the effectiveness of the changes made.

Toyota Rusted Frame Recall (2009)

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In 2009, Toyota’s Tacoma models, particularly from 2005 to 2010, experienced severe frame rusting, compromising safety and performance, especially in cold climates with heavy road salt use. Toyota responded by providing frame inspections and repairs, highlighting the critical nature of vehicle safety and automaker accountability.

Honda Odyssey Recall (2013)

A Honda Odyssey
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In 2013, the Honda Odyssey faced a recall due to safety concerns. The issue affected the 2012-2013 model years of the Odyssey, as well as other vehicles like the CR-V and Acura. During this recall, repairs were provided free of charge at authorized Honda dealers. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offered a hotline for further information on the recall.

Chrysler Minivan Latch Recall (1995)

Minivan Latch Door
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In 1995, Chrysler recalled about 4.5 million minivans, including the Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager, and Chrysler Town and Country, due to a faulty rear latch. The weak latch could cause the liftgate to open in crashes. Chrysler replaced the latches with a more robust mechanism from the 1995 models after 37 deaths and 98 injuries were reported from ejections.

Fiat Chrysler Gear Shifter Recall (2016)

Car Gear Shifter
©Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

In 2016, Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.1 million cars due to gear shift confusion. The issue affected Chrysler 300s, Dodge Chargers, and Jeep Grand Cherokees. This confusion led to accidents and even a tragic incident involving “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin. Fiat Chrysler took steps to speed up the recall and fix the confusing gear shifters, prioritizing consumer safety.

Subaru Brake Line Recall (2014)

A row of Subaru cars lined up
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In 2014, Subaru recalled 660,000 vehicles in the U.S. for brake line corrosion, potentially increasing stopping distances and crash risks. Models involved were the 2005-2009 Outback and Legacy, 2008-2011 Impreza, 2008-2014 WRX/STI, and 2009-2013 Forester. This recall expanded on a May 2013 action, adding more inspections and remedies.

GM Power Window Recall (2008)

A car window shattering
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In 2008, General Motors (GM) had to recall thousands of vehicles due to a power window defect. Driver-side door master power window switch modules were prone to melting and catching fire. The risk was significant enough to call for a large-scale recall.

Ford Steering Wheel Recall (2018)

ford steering wheel
©Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

In 2018, Ford recalled 1.4 million vehicles due to steering wheels that could become loose or detach. The affected models were the 2014-2018 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans. The recall addressed serious safety risks associated with losing steering control.

Toyota Power Window Recall (2015)

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In 2015, Toyota recalled 6.5 million vehicles globally for a defective power window switch with fire risk, marking its fourth such recall. Affected vehicles were primarily from 2005 to 2010. Insufficient grease in the switch could lead to overheating and fire. Toyota’s solution was to apply heat-resistant grease and install retention clips to keep the switch assembly clear of debris.

Fiat Chrysler Hacking Recall (2015)

Fiat Chrysler Cars
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In 2015, Fiat Chrysler recalled around 1.4 million vehicles to address a software vulnerability that could allow hacking, following an incident where a car was remotely controlled by hackers. The vehicles received a software update to improve security and prevent future breaches, underscoring the importance of cybersecurity in today’s vehicles.

BMW EGR Cooler Recall (2018)

A line of BMW cars
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In 2018, BMW issued a recall for Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) coolers in certain diesel-engine vehicles. This defect posed a risk of engine fires, alarming the automotive world. The recall affected Model Year 2013-2018 BMW vehicles with the N47T diesel engine. Owners received notices in early 2022 for free EGR cooler replacements.

Toyota Prius Software Recall (2014)

©Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

In 2014, Toyota recalled about 1.9 million Prius vehicles globally, from model years 2010 to 2014, due to a hybrid system software defect that could cause stalling. The proactive recall aimed to prevent accidents and safeguard drivers.

Ford Door Latch Recall (2016)

A car door latch fails,
©Photo Credit: MiramarSpeedCircuit

In 2016, Ford faced a major recall involving around 2.2 million vehicles due to faulty door latches. Models affected included 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta, 2013-2014 Fusion, and 2013-2014 Lincoln MKZ. The issue with these door latches was that they could become unlatched while driving. This was a significant safety concern, causing many to react with alarm.

GM SUV Recall for Fire Risk (2012)

A GM SUV engulfed in flames
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In 2012, General Motors recalled nearly 250,000 SUVs due to an electrical problem with the potential to cause fires. This large-scale recall impacted multiple models and alarmed the automotive world.

Subaru Air Pump Recall (2016)

A crowded auto repair shop
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In 2016, Subaru recalled over 100,000 vehicles due to a faulty secondary air pump. Affected models included turbocharged versions of the Legacy, Outback, Impreza, and Forester. These faulty pumps were at risk of melting and catching fire. The replacement process took about 30 minutes to an hour. Subaru’s effort to prioritize safety helped maintain its brand reputation.

Chevrolet Bolt EV Battery Fires (2020)

Chevrolet Bolt EV
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In 2020, Chevrolet Bolt EV battery fires due to two rare defects in the same battery cell prompted GM to recall 2017-2022 Bolt EVs and 2022 Bolt EUVs. Despite challenges and some owner noncompliance, GM persists in resolving the issue to ensure safety.

Tesla Autopilot Crashes (2016-present)

Tesla cars crashing
Chevrolet Bolt EV

Tesla has faced scrutiny for its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems. Inattention and inadequate technology have contributed to incidents. The recall aimed to address these issues.

Chevrolet Pickup Recall (1993)

Chevrolet Pickup
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In 1993, Chevrolet experienced a significant recall for its C/K 1500 pickup trucks. This recall impacted many owners and brought attention to potential safety risks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) listed the complete details of the recalls that affected a large number of trucks on the road.

Nissan Takata Airbags (2013-2018)

Nissan cars with open hoods
Chevrolet Bolt EV

From 2013 to 2018, Nissan recalled vehicles with Takata airbags, mainly from 2002 to 2015, due to the risk of explosive deployment and potential serious injuries or deaths. Nissan offered free replacements of the front driver airbag inflators starting May 25, as part of a wider issue impacting multiple car brands.

Mercedes-Benz Sunroof Recall (2017)

A fleet of Mercedes-Benz cars
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In 2017, Mercedes-Benz recalled around 17,000 vehicles due to sunroof problems. The issue involved the panoramic sunroofs detaching and potentially flying off while driving, creating a safety hazard. This recall affected various models, focusing primarily on the C-Class variants. The friendly folks at Mercedes worked diligently to resolve this concern and address customer complaints.


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