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Not just Ford: 10 major car industry scandals

2017-01-19 12:12

WHO'S TO BLAME? Defective vehicles and parts are a sad reality of the auto industry but the manner in which automakers deal with the consequences is the difference between standard recall and a major scandal. Image: Supplied

London - Ford South Africa on Monday (January 16) announced it would recall 4556 Kuga models after more than 45 units suffered engine bay fires.

With Ford firmly in the spotlight it's important to realise that there have been many other auto industry scandals.

With Volkswagen's admission that 11 million of its diesel vehicles globally contain software that can rig emissions tests, the automaker joins a list of auto industry scandals spanning several decades. 

Ford's Kuga saga isn't the first time it suffered a vehicle-fire scandal; it's classic Pinto burst into flames! Toyota was forced to recall millions of vehicles and Takata produced airbags that explode with shrapnel.

We list 10 major scandals in the auto industry:

Emissions cheats, deadly airbags

1. Volkswagen - Huge emissions scandal:

The ‘dieselgate’ scandal blew-up in September 2015 after the German automotive manufacturer cheated on US diesel-emissions tests - allowing its cars to pass emissions tests with flying colours.

As its legal woes continue, this scandal could cost Volkswagen around $14.7-billion in the United States alone.

2. Takata: Exploding airbags

According to the latest figures from US federal regulators, approximately 23.4-million driver and passenger Takata airbags made on 19.2-million vehicles are being recalled and need to be replaced. The airbags can inflate too quickly and explode, sending metal shrapnel into drivers and passengers.

The airbags, which were used in several vehicles, are blamed for causing eleven deaths in the US. Many Japanese vehicles in South Africa were affected too.

3. General Motors: Faulty switches

The automaker's faulty ignition switches have been linked to at least 169 deaths. The switch could slip out of the run position and turn the engine off while driving. Earlier in September 2015, GM agreed to pay $900-million to settle a criminal investigation.

GM has admitted that some employees knew about the problem for nearly a decade, yet cars equipped with the switch were not recalled until 2014. The first recall involved 800 000 Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s. GM recalled more than 29-million vehicles in North America.

4. Toyota -  unexpected acceleration

Toyota agreed to pay $1.2-billion in a settlement in 2014, admitting that it hid information about defects that caused Toyota and Lexus vehicles to accelerate unexpectedly.

Authorities received a 911 call from California highway patrol officer, Mark Sloan after his Lexus ES350 started accelerating on its own.

The car reached 125m/h before it crashed and killed four people. It was only after three years that they recalled the vehicles worldwide. Toyota first tried to blame driver error but eventually recalled more than 10-million vehicles, starting in 2009, for several issues, including faulty brakes, sticky accelerator pedals and problematic floor mats.

5. Ferrari - 458 explosions 

In 2012, Ferrari recalled an entire £212-million fleet of its 458 supercars. A design fault caused it to burst into flames.

The fires were as a result of a flaw in the wheel arch fitted with a special glue that researchers found was "prone to melting".

The lining of the wheel arch was brought into contact with the hot exhaust pipe which causes the lining and adhesive to heat up and ignite - this ultimately caused the aluminium body to melt. 

6. Firestone - Exploding tyres:

About 6.5-million Firestone tyres were recalled in 2000 because its tyres could shred and ultimately blow-out. Most of the tyres were used in Ford SUVs and small bakkies. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in 2001 that it received 271 reports of deaths and 800 injuries related to the faulty tyres. Complaints in total: close to 4000.

7. Ford - Defective transmissions: 

Following its Pinto debacle (No.8 on this list), Ford faced a bizarre transmission scandal in 1980.

Its automatic transmissions, built from 1966 and 1980m were flawed in that it would slip from park into reverse - this led to the cars unexpectedly rolling.

The fault caused the more than 700 accidents, 23 deaths and 259 injuries. Ford mailed 23 million stickers to vehicle owners to put on their dashboard reminding them to “make sure the gear selector lever is fully engaged in Park,” and to “fully engage the parking brake” before switching off the car.

8. Ford Pinto: Faulty fuel tanks

At least 27 people died during the 1970s due to the faulty fuel tanks in the Ford Pinto. In some cases, the fuel tank burst into flames following a rear-end collision. Ford recalled more than 1.5-million Pintos in 1978. It was reported that Ford knew about the fault and opted to rather pay out injury claims instead of fixing the flaw. 

9. Chevrolet - Faulty engine mount

In 1969 defective Chevy engine mounts were reported in the USA. The engine mounts used on 1965 and 1969 models were at risk of collapsing at speed, twisting the engine out of position which led to an unintended acceleration.

It was only in 1971 that they recalled 6.5 million vehicles.

10. Firestone - Rollover scandal

Another scandal as a result of the Ford/Firestone partnership saw defective tyres fitted to the Explorer SUV. Expects found that models fitted with Firestone tyres made the vehicle "prone to rollovers". Ford ended up blaming Firestone...Firestone blamed Ford.

Eventually the tyre company recalled 6.5-million tyres - it blamed low tyre pressure, heat and the Explorer's weight among other things. Back in 2000, more than 100 people lost their lives after their Ford Explorers crashed. Shortly after this scandal Ford and Firestone ended their partnership. 

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