The Biggest Car Recalls of All Time

10. Volkswagen  (1972)
> Vehicles affected: 3.7 million (tied-ninth highest)
> Issue: Wiper screw coming loose
> Components affected: Windshield Wiper

In 1972, a recall was issued for Volkswagen vehicles from the 1949 through 1969 model years. According to the NHTSA, the screw securing a car’s windshield wipers could be loosened, causing drivers to struggle to see the road during rain storms and snowy conditions. Prior to issuing a public announcement, the NHTSA had received complaints from more than 70 Volkswagen owners. However, according to a 1973 United Press International article, “Volkswagen decided the problem was not safety related and that owners should pay for repairs.”

9. Honda (1995)
> Vehicles affected: 3.7 million (tied-ninth highest)
> Issue: Belt buckle release breaking
> Components affected: Seat belt buckle assembly

Honda was forced to recall 3.7 million cars in the mid-nineties due to a defective seat belt buckle assembly. This recall affected the Accord, Prelude and Civic models from the 1986 through 1991 model years. A number of models from Honda’s Acura line were also impacted. The seat belt release button In the recalled cars had the potential to break — a problem the NHTSA determined “worsens with time and exposure, creating a greater risk of buckle failures as time goes by.” In all, numerous Asian and American automakers were hit by recalls for the seat belts, which were made by Takata Corp., but none were more affected than Honda, which had hundreds of thousands more vehicles recalled than the next-highest carmaker, Nissan.

8. General Motors (1973)
> Vehicles affected: 3.7 million
> Issue: Stones entering engine compartment
> Components affected: Underbody shields

More than 3.7 million General Motors vehicles from the Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac lines were recalled in 1973. The problem: stones from graveled and unpaved roads could become stuck in the engine compartment, potentially affecting the driver’s ability to steer. This was corrected by installing a gravel shield over the steering coupling. According to United Press International, the Center for Auto Safety alleged that it had alerted GM to the problem in July 1972, six months before the automaker initiated the recall.

7. Ford (1972)
> Vehicles affected: 4.1 million
> Issue: Connecting part in seat belt breaking from wear
> Components affected: Seat belt webbing

In 1972, Ford had to recall over four million vehicles to fix a small component called a grommet, which is part of a seat belt. This could break with repeated usage, making it impossible for the driver or passenger to lock in the shoulder harness. Each grommet cost only a few cents to make, according to a June 1972 Associated Press article. The recall affected most cars produced by Ford for its U.S. lines for the 1970 and 1971 model years, excluding only its Maverick and convertible models. The problem was easily corrected by replacing the original piece with another made of neoprene.

6. Toyota (2007-2010)
> Vehicles affected: 5.7 million
> Issue: Floor mat interfering with accelerator pedal
> Components affected: Accelerator pedal

In 2007, Toyota issued a recall on the optional All-Weather Floor Mats Toyota sold for its 2007 and 2008 Camry and Lexus ES 350 models. These mats could move forward while the car was in motion, causing the accelerator pedal to become stuck. In early 2009, Toyota issued a second recall, this time for the 2004 Toyota Sienna, in which the carpet cover could also become stuck and lead to unexpected acceleration. Later that year, the company recalled 4.4 million more Toyotas due to the same problem. This was expanded the next year to include another 1.1 million cars. In late December 2012, Toyota settled a consolidated lawsuit for approximately $1 billion with claimants who alleged economic loss. The first of hundreds of wrongful death or injury lawsuits was settled in mid-January. As of 2010, at least 89 deaths were found to have been potentially connected to unintended acceleration problems in Toyota cars.

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