There is nothing more disastrous for a company than a product recall. This is especially true in the automotive industry. There are lots of reasons why a car manufacturer might need to start a recall. Some reasons in the past have been faulty air conditioning units, floor mats that don’t fit properly and door handles that have a high risk of falling off after prolonged usage. These kind of recalls happen regularly and aren’t massively serious. Once in a while, however, there is a recall due to more sinister reasons. These are usually recalls due to a potential risk to the owners of the cars being recalled. These recalls usually attract much more media attention, especially if the recall is because there is a risk of a fatality happening. Nowadays, cars have to pass a much more stringent safety evaluation before they can be sold. It is rare that a car doesn’t pass, although it happens, just look at this story about the Honda Fit crash rating as an example.
Over the years, there have been some recalls that were particularly notorious. Here are the stories behind them.
The Ford Pinto is the most notorious car in recall history. Made between 1971 and 1976 where it was shut down due to a mass recall and huge media scandal. The Pinto was built with a lack of protection between the gas tank and the bolts in the back. This meant many Pintos ended up with holes in the gas tank due to the contact with those bolts. When this happened, there was a high chance that the entire car would set on fire and explode.
It didn’t just stop there either, when tested, it was found that something as minor as a car rolling into the back of a Pinto, could cause it to burst into flames.
What made it worse was a leaked memo from the executives in charge of the Pinto and its production. This leaked document exposed the executives for deciding that paying for the lawsuits against them was a cheaper option than a full recall. After this was exposed, and after a year of media frenzy, they finally did a full recall of the Pinto. To this day, there has not been a scandal so serious or heinous as the one surrounding the Ford Pinto.
Toyota Gas Pedals
In the early 2000s Toyota, who had long been known for its quality products, made a serious blunder. In a large number of their cars that they produced during that period, there was a serious potential fault with the gas pedal. This fault made the gas pedal stick at the bottom, causing unstoppable acceleration. Toyota had to recall over 9 million cars, at a cost of several billions of dollars. The company is only just starting to recover from the blunder.
Although there have been a huge number of other recalls, none are as notorious as these two. The scale and the potential risk to customers was enormous. Both companies are lucky to have survived the scandals.