Unsafe At Any Speed: Worst Auto Recalls in U.S. History

Maria Trimarchi

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Massive recalls, ranging from benign to deadly, have haunted the auto industry for decades. How much do you know about how to handle recalls and how the process works?

Which automaker has the lowest recall rate over the last 3 decades?

Porsche has had the lowest recall rate since 1985, with 531 recalls per 1,000 vehicles sold. In comparison, the Volkswagen Group, with 1,805 recalls per 1,000 vehicles sold, has had the highest recall rate.

Over the last 30 years, which automaker has had the fewest recalls with the potential for crashes, fires, injuries or death?

Volvo has had the fewest, with 71 percent of their recalls having the potential for crashes, fires, injuries or death.

Which among the following is the best-selling car in the U.S.?

The Toyota Camry is a popular choice in the U.S.

When was the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act signed?

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was signed in 1966.

When did the first automotive recalls begin?

Automotive recalls started in 1970 after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was founded.

How many people are driving cars with an unfixed recall?

About 1 out of every 4 drivers in the U.S. are driving nearly 64 million vehicles with potentially dangerous unaddressed recalls.

How many vehicles were involved in the largest auto recall in U.S. history?

The largest automotive recall in U.S. history involved 42 million vehicles.

How is a recall issued?

All three of these are possible ways to initiate an automotive recall.

Who published his book, "Unsafe at Any Speed," after calling Chevrolet's Corvair “the leading candidate for the un-safest-car title"?

In 1965, U.S. consumer protection advocate Ralph Nader published "Unsafe at Any Speed."

In 1972, why did Volkswagen recall nearly 4 million vehicles made between 1949 and 1969?

VW recalled 3.7 million vehicles made between 1949 and 1969 because of loose windshield wipers.

In 1978, which car was recalled for a flaw with its fuel tank that had potential for causing fires and explosive accidents?

The flaw in the Pinto's fuel tank led to multiple injuries and deaths. Ford recalled 1.5 million Pintos and Bobcats in 1978 and stopped their production in 1980.

Which automaker recalled roughly 9 million cars after a faulty gas pedal design caused the deaths of more than 30 people?

More than 30 people were killed when the gas pedal on some Toyotas and Lexus became stuck at full-throttle. It took two recalls to address the problem.

What was the reason for the Scion SR-S recall in 2012?

Scion recalled its 2012 FR-S because of inaccuracies about the airbag system that could be confusing in the owner's manual.

Which is not considered a safety-related defect by the NHTSA?

None of these are considered by the NHTSA to be safety-related defects.

In addition to correcting safety-related defects, when does the NHTSA consider an automotive recall necessary?

The NHTSA issues a recall when a vehicle -- or its equipment (such as its tires) -- doesn't comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.

In 1980, how many vehicles did Ford recall because of an issue that caused some to slip out of park?

In 1980, Ford recalled 21 million cars and trucks because of an issue that could cause some automatic transmissions to slip out of park.

What was Ford's first solution to its automatic transmissions that were slipping from park into reverse?

As many as 23 million Fords owners were mailed a 5-1/2-inch-by-1-1/4-inch silver warning label to stick to the dashboard.

Which is not one of the three ways an automaker can legally handle a safety-related defect?

Automakers have three options: They can choose to repair the issue at no cost; replace the vehicle with an identical or similar one; or, refund the full purchase price (minus depreciation). While some may try, it's illegal to ignore correcting a safety-related defect.

In 1999, which U.S. automaker recalled almost 15 million vehicles because of faulty cruise-control switches that could catch on fire?

In 1999, Ford recalled almost 15 million vehicles because faulty cruise-control switches could catch fire.

Which car was infamously nicknamed "the barbecue that seats four"?

The Ford Pinto was nicknamed "the barbecue that seats four" after fuel tank explosions during rear collisions.

After 9 years and 13 deaths because of an ignition switch problem, which automaker was forced to recall 2.6 million Cobalt and G5 vehicles?

GM recalled 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts, and look-alike Pontiac G5s, because of an ignition switch problem causing the engine to shut off while driving.

Which manufacturer issued the most recalls on more of its cars than any other automaker, between 2004 and 2014?

GM is at the top of the list, with the most recalls on more of its models than any other automaker between 2004 and 2014.

In 1986, which Audi was accused of having an unintended acceleration problem -- including a damning segment on "60 Minutes" -- despite the issue being driver error?

Independent reports all confirmed, there was no acceleration defect in the Audi 5000. The German-styled (narrow) gas and brake pedals were confusing U.S. drivers, who were putting the pedal to the metal instead of braking.

More than 8 million cars and trucks made between 1986 and 1991 were recalled after what auto parts maker's seat belts were deemed defective?

After an NHTSA investigation, seat belts manufactured by auto parts maker Takata Corp. were recalled for defective plastic release buttons. While most of the seat belts were installed in Hondas and Nissans, Takata seat belts impacted 11 automakers.

Which Bridgestone/Firestone tire was not associated with the abnormally high failure rate that led to a recall in 2000?

After nearly 175 deaths in addition to more than 700 injuries, Firestone and Ford recalled 3.8 million P235/75R15 ATX and ATXII tires, and 2.7 million Wilderness AT tires because of tread separation. As many as 81 percent of complaints involved Firestone's 15-inch P235/75R15.

Which vehicle saw most of the Firestone tire failures?

Although the Bronco, Ranger and F-150 also were affected by the tread separation that caused the recall, most of the Firestone tires involved were on the Ford Explorer.

What was the name of Bridgestone/Firestone advertising campaign after the Bridgestone/Firestone tire recall?

While these are all auto-related slogans, Bridgestone/Firestone's campaign to restore consumer confidence was called "Making It Right."

Which rear-wheel-drive, rear-engined car had a swing-axle suspension design flaw which was prone to causing the driver to lose control?

The first-generation Chevy Corvair, manufactured between 1960 and 1963, was prone to handling issues that could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

How prevalent are software-related issues among vehicle recalls?

Software-related recalls increased from fewer than 5 percent to about 15 percent, between 2011 and 2015.

Which is not included in the top 10 vehicles most potentially affected by recalls, between 1990 and 2014?

According to NHTSA data, the Kia Sedona is not in the top 10 vehicles most potentially affected by recalls between 1990 and 2014.

Which car has not been recalled for Yellow Sac spider infestations?

Toyota recalled 870,000 vehicles, including 2012 and 2013 Avalons, Camrys and Venzas, because of spiders. And Mazda recalled 42,000 Mazda 6s built between 2010 and 2012. The Volkswagen Jetta was not recalled for a spider problem.

How many people were killed because of faulty airbag inflators from Japanese auto parts maker Takata Corp.?

Faulty airbag inflators made by Takata are responsible for 11 deaths and more than 180 injuries.

How many different automakers were affected by the faulty Takata airbag inflators?

As many as 65 to 70 million faulty Takata airbags affected 19 different automakers on car model years between 2002 and 2015.

What type of propellant was at the heart of the problem with Takata's faulty airbag inflators?

Takata began seeing issues after a switch to an ammonium nitrate-based propellant in its airbags.

What's the first step toward reporting a safety-related defect in your vehicle?

Consumers can file complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, through NHTSA's at safercar.gov website.

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