A lot has been said of recalls in the automotive business of late. This is not a new phenomenon. For those that live under a rock, here’s a quick re-cap: Takata is an airbag manufacturer that produces the majority of airbags used in cars today. Something like 60 million have been recalled because they were deemed unsafe. The Volkswagen Audi Group has had their diesel engine sales suspended completely because apparently they pollute more than the Donald’s hair and tanning products (sorry, too soon?). In both cases, the manufacturer is accused of knowing there were faulty parts in the components.
This is a list of my favorite automotive recalls:
Toyota Gas-pedal-gate: In 2009-10, some Toyota vehicles began accelerating on their own, affecting about 9 million cars and causing the company some wicked PR headaches. Add to that the shame of appearing in front of many a congressional panel. It also cost Toyota over $4.5 billion…now, that’s a lot of Corollas.
Firestone Tire-gate: Ford installed faulty Firestone tires that were prone to blowouts and thus, causing crashes, fires, death and whatnot. Someone from the Firestone family had married someone from the Ford family, so Ford tried to keep it as quiet as possible. Over 3 million tires were recalled, costing over $3 billion in the early 2000’s. Shocker: the Firestone and Ford families are no longer on talking terms. In fact, Firestone won’t bid on Ford projects anymore. Let’s just say all this makes for an awkward family reunion.
Audi Transmission-gate: In the 80s, Audi 5000 sedans were suddenly accelerating and the brakes simultaneously failing. Bad, right? This was largely fabricated by a 60 Minutes segment that condemned Audi for building death traps. It was 1986 and everyone believed what they saw on TV. It was at this point that Audi got the worst legal advice and admitted fault – later discovering they were not at fault, ouch – paid out a boatload of money and ruined their reputation for years. Not many cars were affected by this, but it sure put a damper on sales. This incident has been referenced numerous times by PR departments as an example of “what not to do”.
Ford-Pinto-gate: What a doozy!! This was Ford’s thinking in the 1970s. “It will cost $11 to fix a problem…it is better to just deal with the lawsuits as they come”. No joke, that was the company stance. Ford’s Pinto was the answer to the growing Japanese car market. The problem? The Pinto was made of thin, weak metal that provided very little structural impact resistance in an accident. Add to this the fact that the hot exhaust was routed right next to the flammable gas tank and you get free fireworks in a rear end collision! Ford is still getting over this epic fail today. The name “Pinto” is synonymous with “failure” or “garbage quality”.
So you see, recalls are not uncommon in the auto industry – they simply come with the territory. It seems the more stunning and flagrant the flops, the more popular they are. When you have thousands of parts and thousands of people working to make one product, having an unforeseen issue is very plausible.