As Toyota launches a face-saving public relations campaign in the hopes of putting its second major recall in recent months out of consumers’ minds, it can take solace in one thing: It could have been worse. While the 5.3 million-vehicle recall from November and January and the just-announced 2.3 million-vehicle callback were the biggest in the Japanese automaker’s history, neither will go down in history as the biggest of all time (that very dubious honor goes to Ford, which holds four of the top seven spots).
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In fact, some of the most memorable recalls of the last half century don’t even make the top 10. The 2000 Bridgestone Firestone debacle and the 1995 Japanese-manufactured seatbelt recall resulted in the recall of tires and seatbelts only, respectively while Ford’s 1978 recall of the Pinto, motivated by Ralph Nader’s Center for Auto Safety and a damning report in Mother Jones magazine, amounted to only 1.5 million cars. Nader’s other famous auto safety campaign—his crusade against the Chevy Corvair made famous in his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed—wasn’t able to bring about a recall at all.
We’ve arranged the biggest 10 recalls in the U.S. by number of vehicles recalled, based on figures from the NHTSA, the car manufacturers themselves, and reports of each recall. Where possible, we’ve also shown incident figures and tallied alleged deaths thought to be related to the cars’ problems.
Compiled by Max Read