General Motor’s Chevy division recalled some of its Bolt EV models because of potential engine fires. The embarrassment and bad publicity for the “Tesla killer” was compounded by the fact that it was the second recall of the model. Approximately 69,000 of them were recalled in an action that covered models from 2017, 2018, and a portion of those made in 2019. The batteries in question were made by LG Chem, and company based in South Korea. The recall was tiny when measured against the industry’s largest recalls.
The largest recall of a car model by far was the one Ford made in 1981. It covered 21 million units. It is worth recalling, for contrast, that the best years for total car sales in U.S. history are those when 17 million vehicles are sold.
The cars in question killed 98 people, injured 1,710, and were involved in over 6,000 accidents according to Parker Waichman LLP. Ford did not repair the problems. It sent out warning labels to the 21 million owners which said they should engage the parking brake when they stopped before they turned off the engine. Parker Waichman wrote the cars had a “defective parking gear that would allow the transmission to slip into reverse after being shifted into park.”
The Center for Auto Safety says the problem predated the recall by several years:
The Center for Auto Safety first called NHTSA’s attention to the problem in July 1977, and shortly thereafter NHTSA instituted an investigation into 1966-79 Ford vehicles with C-6 or FMX transmissions.
The Center claims that the NHTSA ignored the problem at first.
The largest auto recall occurred in early 1981, when the Ford Motor Company announced the recall of 21 million Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles from the 1970 through 1980 model years. The recalled vehicles contained defective parking gear that could fail to engage after the vehicle was shifted to park, often leaving the car in reverse. Instead of issuing repairs, Ford provided car owners with a dashboard sticker warning them to set the parking brake and shut off the ignition before exiting the car, lest “unexpected and possibly sudden vehicle movement” occurs.
For perspective, the Ford recall involved 300 times more vehicles than the new Chevy Bolt one does.