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16 Biggest Auto Recalls In History


16-audi 5000-flickr-c5karl
Photo credit: c5karl / Flickr

Given that your car is probably one of the bigger purchases you make with your hard-earned money, it is reasonable for you to expect a certain level of quality. Driving involves enough risks without you needing to worry about the safety and reliability of your automobile.

Unfortunately, auto companies are not always on top of their game in the manufacturing process. Sometimes products make it out to the sale floor and into the hands of the public that are anything but ready for prime time. The defects may be minor or major – everyone just hopes that the manufacturer notices the problem soon enough to keep anyone from getting hurt.

16. Audi – 1982-1987 (92,000 Vehicles)

The fact that this recall involved so few cars – relatively speaking – does not mean it had little impact, at least for Audi. The company was making some inroads into the U.S. market before the series of recalls that ravaged its reputation for nearly a decade.

The problem came with the recall of the Audi 5000, says Popular Mechanics. The first recall, in 1982, was for problem floor mats which could cause the gas pedal to stick and possibly lead to unintended acceleration. Four years later the popular news program 60 Minutes ran a story about the runaway Audi’s that caused the public to reject Audi vehicles outright.

This was unfortunate because most evidence pointed to driver error rather than an actual problem with the cars.

Audi was hard hit for some time, with U.S. sales dropping to just a fraction of what they were at their peak in 1985. This particular example demonstrates how quickly the tables can turn for an auto company just getting a foothold in the market.

Audi went from selling 74,061 cars to only 12,283 in the five years following the news story, according to Popular Mechanics – only recovering with the release of the popular and successful A4 in 1996. It also demonstrates how little margin for error there is when you are trying to break into a new market, even if you are relatively successful in your own market.

Other car companies would have similar problems with acceleration issues, but none would suffer the major setback Audi experienced in the 80s.

It is interesting to see how much damage one popular news story can do to the sales of a vehicle and the success of an automobile manufacturer, at least during this time period. This is worth remembering for all car manufacturers.

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