Fun with data visualization: Automotive recalls over the last 40 years

There have been some truly massive recalls in recent years. The Takata airbag recall started years ago and continues today, while Chevrolet recalled nearly every Bolt EV and Bolt EUV it had made in late 2020. Those are certainly on the large side of the recall list, but Visual Capitalist put together data on recalls for the last 40 years, and some of the trends are quite interesting.

The publication found 22,651 recalls over the last 40, including 2,303 equipment-related recalls, 442 tire recalls, and 220 child seat recalls. Vehicles accounted for the vast majority of recalls, with 19,686. Visual Capitalist notes that the number of vehicle recalls has increased sharply in the last few years, and their graphic illustrates the trend with heavier concentrations of recalls starting in 2014. The heaviest year was 2021, when 1,093 vehicles were recalled.

Though Ford was the most recalled company in 2022, General Motors was the most recalled manufacturer in the last 40 years and was involved in one of the most significant recalls in the previous decade. It recalled millions of vehicles for faulty ignition switches that could cause them to shut down while driving. At the same time, some manufacturers recall tiny numbers of vehicles, such as Lordstown Motors, which recalled 19 trucks earlier this year for loss of power issues. Beyond the recognizable names on the list, a few lesser-known companies showed up. Forest River, Inc is a Berkshire Hathaway company that sells RVs and campers, while Blue Bird manufactures school buses.

Interestingly, recall numbers for most vehicle components have remained steady over the years, but the equipment and electrical systems categories have increased in recent times. Equipment recalls have been on an upward swing since 2007, presumably corresponding with more advanced technology features and vehicle systems. Both areas are also significant points of contention in new vehicle opinion surveys.

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