What are the deadliest auto defects?
We are all aware that there are significant threats associated with operating a vehicle, yet many people are unaware that concealed flaws by car manufacturers may be hiding in their flawlessly tuned cars.
Manufacturer problems are far more widespread than most realize, and automakers intend to keep it that way. Each year, hundreds of people are killed by defective parts and designs.
Some of the following fatalities were widely known, while most were kept secret on purpose. In many cases, it took years for individuals who lost loved ones to realize the catastrophe was caused by a flaw that the manufacturer knew about.
There were even drivers accused of homicide and imprisoned who were not released until the manufacturer was compelled to reveal themselves as the wrongdoer because of an auto defect.
Hundreds of individuals endured unfathomable suffering and shame before receiving a notice in the mail informing them of the dangerous problem in their car that needed to be repaired. It took not just many years, but many lives for manufacturers to admit they had a problem.
#5: Unintentional Acceleration
Beginning in 2000, the NHTSA received 6,200 reports of Toyotas suddenly speeding, leaving drivers unable to stop or even slow down.
After roughly a decade of complaints, accidents, and deaths, Toyota recalled 5.2 million of their vehicles, blaming the floor mats, and then another 2.3 million a year later, citing “sticky” floor pedals.
Toyota recalled an additional 1.8 million vehicles after the first two recalls failed to halt the unplanned acceleration. This fatal problem was ultimately brought under control after 9.3 million automobiles were recalled.
Unfortunately, no number of recalls could save the 89 lives lost in those chaotic Toyotas.
Consequences and Controversy
Many people believe that vehicles had malfunctioning electronic throttle control systems, but Toyota maintains that ill-fitting floor mats, sticky gas pedals, and human mistakes were the only reasons for the thousands of accidents that occurred. Whatever the cause, it was established that Toyota should have responded sooner.
The Japanese manufacturer received the maximum penalty of $16.4 million for deceiving consumers and continuing to build automobiles while knowing there was a dangerous risk.
Fortunately, the death toll from this flaw stayed around 100, and the number of serious injuries did not exceed 60, because things could have been much worse.
#4 – Dangerous Tires
Both Ford and Firestone have blamed one other and withheld information about what went wrong and when from the public. What is undeniable is that Firestone tires caused 271 deaths and over 700 injuries due to adverse tread separation and unexpected, lethal blowouts.
Beginning in the early 1990s, the NHTSA received over 3,500 reports of faulty tires, prompting them to launch investigations to determine the source of the problem.
In 2000, three months after the NHTSA began investigating and nine months after Ford began recalling tires on its cars overseas, Firestone recalled 14.4 million of their problematic tires in the United States.
Faults That Aren’t Visible
According to accounts, engineers at the Decatur, Illinois, factory where the faulty tires were manufactured were aware of a safety risk long before the tires were fastened onto vehicles.
There are also reports that Ford personnel brought rollover concerns with Ford Explorers to the notice of administrators long before they were released to the public.
A flip-happy Explorer traveling at high speeds on thin tires is a lethal combination.
Because of Ford and Firestone, Bill Clinton approved legislation tightening recall standards, and the Decatur Firestone facility shuttered in December 2001.
#3 – Defective Ignition Switches
There can’t be many scarier situations in life than traveling at 60 miles per hour when your car abruptly shuts down, leaving you with no brakes, no power steering, and no airbags to cushion you when you eventually stop by bashing into anything.
Unfortunately, between 2003 and 2011, General Motors put faulty ignition switches in millions of its vehicles, resulting in that horrible occurrence.
More than 300 people died and many more were injured, making GM’s ignition switches the third most lethal defect in history. Due to this manufactured problem, 2.6 million GM cars were recalled, and five million notifications were delivered to registered owners.
According to reports, occurrences of auto-shutdown were recorded beginning in 2001, five years before anything was done to address it. GM dismissed 15 employees and was fined $35 million for failing to inform the NHTSA of the fault sooner.
Unfortunately, this lethal flaw is not likely to stop taking lives. Only 75% of the automobiles with defective ignition switches had been repaired as of May 2015.
#2 – Engines That Explode
Fiat began a covert redesign in 2005 since their Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokees had more than double the fatality rate of any SUV in its class due to the bursting gas tank problem in real-world and test collisions. These deadly vehicle fires were covered up by the company.
Fiat was aware that the gas tanks were not properly covered, but they kept this production flaw hidden for well over a decade to save money on recalls and repairs.
Even when a toddler died in a Jeep Grand Cherokee in a widely publicized and heartbreaking accident, Fiat refused to recognize its mistake. Since 1998, 478 people have died as a consequence of what may have been minor fender benders.
Finally, 15 years after those terrible collisions began, and one year after Remington, a 4-year-old boy, died on his way to tennis in June 2013, the NHTSA ordered Fiat to recall 2.7 million vehicles.
Even yet, Fiat only recalled 55% of the vehicles deemed dangerous, and somehow obtained permission to install hitches to “repair” the other 1.2 million.
Only 4% of the problematic Grand Cherokees and 27% of the Libertys were repaired two years after the recalls, which is one of the lowest rates of recall repairs by a vehicle maker in history.
Furthermore, over a million faulty automobiles were simply equipped with a hitch, which quickly proven to be ineffective.
#1 – Broncos Bucking
Ford’s lethal design of the Bronco II has killed more people than any other manufacturing flaw since the creation of vehicles itself.
When this SUV was still a prototype, Ford discovered it might flip onto two wheels at speeds as low as 20 mph, but the issue was disregarded since the repair cost was too high and would postpone the sale date.
Between 1984 and 1996, there were 17,721 rollovers and 823 deaths in the “Bucking Bronco,” and Ford’s heartless reaction was, “It’s an honor to ride in the first compact SUV.”
You’d think that the manufacturing fault that claimed the most lives, with a “Avoid” rating from Consumer Reports and a “Most Deadly” rating from IIHS, would result in the most recalls for consumer protection, but that wasn’t the case.
Ford did nothing to correct the flawed design causing rollovers or alert drivers about how dangerous their Bronco II was. On your next trip to the grocery store, you could even witness a “Bucking Bronco” bobbing along the road.
Thankfully, Ford discontinued production of their serial-killing car in 1990, when it was replaced with the Explorer, which, paradoxically, has many of its negative attributes.
It’d be fascinating to know how much money Ford executives calculated they’d lose if they altered the Bronco prototype in the early 1980s, given that the firm has paid over $2.4 billion in settlements for the hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries it caused.
Overconfidence in Research
These five manufacturing flaws alone have claimed the lives of 1,964 Americans. History shows that for vehicle makers, money far too frequently takes precedence over safety.
Investigate the type and model of the car you’re considering, read up on crash testing, safety ratings, and historical and current recalls… do all of this, and perhaps you’ll avoid purchasing a vehicle with a lethal, hidden problem.
We must take extra precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones now more than ever.
Keep in mind that some car manufacturers might also be riskier. In our analysis of which car brands had the most deadly collisions, Ford came out on top with slightly more than 21,000 fatal crashes.
Contact an Auto Defects Lawyer
Our auto defect lawyer has helped many critically wounded clients nationwide recover money for amputations, asphyxiations, burn injuries, brain trauma, spinal cord injury, death, and other catastrophic disabilities caused by defective automobiles. David P. Willis is board certified as a personal injury trial law specialist. We’ve put in a lot of effort to get the best results for our clients, and we’ll do the same for you and your loved ones. Call us at 713-654-4040 or 1-800-883-9858.