After headline-grabbing recalls over GM ignition switches and Takata airbags, auto safety is in the nation’s spotlight. Here are some facts about auto recalls that may surprise you.
- 2014 was a record-breaking year. There were more than 62 million cars recalled in the United States in 2014, the highest total on record by far. In terms of cars on the road today, that’s one in every five cars recalled. Prior to 2014, the record stood with the 30 million cars recalled in 2004.
- … In more ways than one. Last year, GM also set a record for the greatest number of older models recalled. The eight largest car manufacturers recalled more vehicles in 2014 than they have on average since record-keeping began in 1966.
- But 2015 may be even bigger. It may be hard to imagine a year with more auto recalls than 2014, but the new head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 2015 could be even worse. Mark Rosekind said that with public attention on auto safety, he wants car recalls to be more proactive, and he will aim for a 100 percent recall completion rate.
- GM recalled more cars than it sold in seven years. By the time 2014 was half over, GM had recalled almost 25 million cars in the United States, through more than 50 separate recalls — more cars than the automaker sold from 2007 to 2013.
- All the U.S. cars recalled in 2014 would wrap around the earth six times. Just in the United States, there were 62 million vehicles recalled in 2014. Assuming an average car length of 4 meters (a slight underestimate), lining all those cars up bumper-to-bumper would reach 248,000 kilometers, or 154,100 miles. The earth’s circumference is 24,901 miles, so that line of cars would circle the equator more than six times.
- GM ignition switches caused at least 50 deaths. A compensation expert hired by General Motors to handle claims for deaths and injury has determined that at least 50 death cases are eligible for payments because of crashes due to the automaker’s faulty ignition switches. GM was aware of the defect for over a decade but did not initiate a recall until 2014.
- Other major defects leading to recalls have been even deadlier. In 2000 and 2001, Ford recalled about 13 million cars because of defective Firestone tires linked to 271 deaths. In 1980, Ford recalled 21 million cars over a problem that could cause cars to slip from park to reverse, which was linked to nearly 100 deaths. As recently as 2013, Chrysler recalled 1.6 million vehicles over a problem that could cause fuel tanks to explode, which was linked to 51 deaths.