The five largest auto recalls ever

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Ford Excursion

The Ford Excursion was one of the models affected in the largest recall effort in history. Image: MSVG/Flickr/CC BY

In January Car Deal Expert posted about BMW’s recall of exactly six 2012 X5 xDrive35i models over automatic transmissions issues. In discussing that recall, we examined some of the smallest auto recalls in history. That begged the question, what were the largest? Here, in descending order, are the top five.

5. February 1981, GM

In its second-largest recall ever, GM replaced faulty rear-control-arm bolts on 5.82 million vehicles of various models. The bolts were found to have cracks that could cause them to fail at high speeds, interrupting suspension and creating a potentially hazardous situation for passengers. The models affected in the recall were the 1978 – 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix and LeMans; Chevy El Camino, Monte Carlo and Malibu; Buick Century and Regal; GMC Caballero; and Oldsmobile Cutlass.

4. October 2009 and January 2010, Toyota

In two back-to-back recalls, Toyota summoned 6.67 million cars to repair issues causing unintended acceleration. One of the recalls involved a misaligned floor mat that could possibly put pressure on the accelerator pedal, and the other was for a sticky pedal mechanism. The models affected in the recall were the 2004-2010 Camry, Avalon, Prius, Highlander, Lexus, Tundra, RAV 4, Tacoma, Corolla and Corolla Matrix.

3. December 1971, GM

In its largest ever, GM recalled 6.7 million cars over possibly faulty motor mounts. The automaker found a fix for the problem that was much less costly than replacing all of the motor mounts. Mechanics at GM dealerships used cables to secure the motor to the firewall in case the mounts failed. The models affected in the recall were the 1965-1970 GMC C Series, G Series and P Series; Chevy Brookwood, Bel Air, Townsman, Camaro, C series, G Series, P Series, Nova, Impala, Caprice, Kingwood and Chevy II.

And the two largest recalls in history go to Ford.

2. April 1996, Ford

Ford recalled 7.9 vehicles over a faulty ignition switch. The automaker received many reports of its ignition switches self-firing, leading to shorts and melted steering columns. The models affected in that recall were the 1988 – 1993 Mercury Grand Marquis, Cougar and Topaz; the Lincoln Town Car; the Ford Bronco, Crown Victoria, Mustang, Thunderbird, Tempo, Aerostar,  Escort and F-Series trucks.

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1. October 2009, Ford

A whopping 14 million cars were recalled in the largest such event in history. The recall was for overheating switches in the cruise control system that could cause a fire under the right circumstances. On some models, the problem also could affect the anti-locking braking system, requiring further fixes. The original recall was for 4.5 million cars, but the recall was later expanded and eventually affected 14 million owners. The models affected were the 1992-2003 Ford Excursion, Explorer, Windstar, Ranger, E-150 – 450 and F-150 – 450; and the Mercury Mountaineer.


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