Take the greatest automobile manufacturers to ever “live” on this Earth: Ford, General Motors, Chevy, Tucker, the Japanese moguls, the European giants – we all love the majors in the industry, and there are countless gearheads that are ready to do anything just to drive that new Lambo, Bugatti Veyron, Mustang or Supra. However, the society is also a pretty cruel bunch, and all it takes for everybody to turn their heads away and start blaming a certain company in all kinds of diabolic endeavors is one (true or false) accusation. Cover-ups, criminal negligence, denial of obvious flaws in the construction…all of that drops a brand’s esteem and respect to the bottom (not to mention stock collapse). Hey, it’s pretty hard to chant for a company when they’re accused of manufacturing troublesome cars that can kill folks on the streets. Today we’ll talk about the biggest scandals in the automobile industry, the most ridiculous, foul and buzzy stories.
Now, to tell the truth, automakers are simple people like us; more so, they are businessmen, so, they’re all about maximizing profits and cutting on production costs.
Balancing Between Big Profits & Huge Scandals
And most of the time they do manage to find that golden middle that’s equally beneficial both for the company and the customers. However, sometimes they slip (or get greedy) and get themselves in horrible messes. Don’t be surprised, guys, automobile manufacturers have been “bending” laws, regulations, and sometimes even moral principles ever since the break of dawn (well, more like ever since Henry Ford turned 4-wheel steel horses into a whole new industry).
Sometimes they say it’s just business, sometimes they claim the government is just trying to win street credit for going hard on one of the biggest majors in the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that back in 2014 statistical analysis named it the worst year for recalls in history of car making, and that counts for something. I gotta mention that the biggest scandals in the automobile industry had to do with safety issues.
Still, we did have our fair share of audacious stories that will forever be remembered as nation-wide bangers. So, if you, by chance, are getting ready to write the next huge essay on the biggest scandals in automobile history, I suggest you keep your eyes peeled and your ears perked. Might learn a thing or two.
The Chrysler Airflow Beef In 1937 (With GM Faulty Claims)
Alright, so, the first story in our list of Biggest Scandals In The Automobile Industry dates way, way back: welcome to 1934 – the Great Depression is about to be over, folks are starting to breathe again, and car-makers are trying to make some profits. That’s when Chrysler built one of the most advanced (and aerodynamic) cars to date. The edgy streamlined design made folks fall in love with it. General Motors, one of Chrysler’s biggest rivals (ever), was mad about their success, and decided to play it dirty: they bought advertisements in the SEP (Saturday Evening Post) and claimed that the Airflow was snatched from a GM design and that it was a thread on the streets. Chrysler retaliated with a dope newsreel, showing the car’s amazing suspension (they SHOT one of the tires!), safety glass rigidness, driving it off a 110-foot cliff, and more. The uni-body construction was all-steel, while the competition on the market was still using wood. However, GM’s cheap trick worked, and the forward-thinking Chrysler Airflow was discontinued in 1937.
The Biggest Scandals In The Automobile Industry – The Tucker Fraud Case In 1950
The legendary 1948 Tucker was an instant hit: it won over folks with a bold, catchy and sexy design, up-to-date safety equipment and a unique charisma (tell me you don’t love it!) Furthermore, the founder of the company, Mr. Preston Tucker, had a hugely successful fundraising campaign. During WW2 he created a gun turret for the US army, and, after he returned home, the visionary designer embarked on a cross-country “tour” in his drop-dead killer car, selling stock, taking down payments, et cetera, et cetera.
However, the company was done broke, and the money he raised was used to keep his Chicago factory up and running. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the Tucker 48 was a revolutionary vehicle in terms of safety, with advanced features like a reinforced safety cell, a padded dash, and, of course, that iconic center headlight that turned with the front wheels (movie directors really loved that feature).
Trying To Keep The Company Alive
Tucker was in desperate need of money, and that’s why he was offering accessories/options to folks whose cars weren’t even built yet, and, when the delay in production became a problem, the government stepped in. In 1950 Tucker (and his board) was accused of fraud and the company was shut down. That was one of the biggest scandals in the automobile industry, and, to be honest, I’m a bit said about how the story ended, because the Tucker 48 was a truly exceptional vehicle.
Overall, there were only 51 units built, making it one of the rarest legendary vehicles in the history of cars. And that’s why today, in the 21century, when we’ve got all kinds of supercars, sporty models and muscle studs, the iconic Tucker is worth millions. Yep, during a recent auction by RM Sotheby’s a Tucker 48 was sold for 1.5 million dollars.
The Ford Pinto Story
The Ford Pinto was introduced in ’71 and had one goal – win over the market. And for a period of time, the car was booming, with 328K units sold in the first year. But the Pinto had a pretty fatal flaw, one that the company knew for a long time: the thing is, the fuel filler neck was badly mounted, and, in case of a rear-end collision, it could hit the fuel tank, spraying fuel all over the cabin and possibly igniting it. In 1977 it turned out that Ford knew about the defect even before serial production, but never went for a proper repair because it would’ve been too expensive to fix that (+11 dollars to the final cost; on the other hand, a shield protecting the tank would be worth only a dollar).
To make things more “fun”, a video was leaked, showing how many deaths the flaw could potentially cause. So, by ’78 the public was so mad that the company had to recall 1.5 million Pintos and go ahead with the life-preserving upgrades to the fuel system. 900 people died because of the defect, and Ford paid hundreds of millions in all kinds of civil suits, which almost bankrupted it. Of all the biggest scandals in the automobile industry, this one is the most horrible one, because it took human lives – nine hundred lives. That’s why this story is here, in the list of the Biggest Scandals In The Automobile Industry.
The Audi 5000 & The Sudden Acceleration
True, the German Audi is one of the best on the market of luxury cars, but back in the ’80s it was involved in a big-time scandal that could very well destroy it in the US. The Audi 5000 was released in ’82, a nice-looking, sporty, reliable (you would think) sedan that was the company’s pride and joy and the key to success in America. The “Judgment Day” was November 23, ’86, when 60 Minutes on CBS (yep, they’ve been around for a while) ran a shocking story on the model, with owners speaking about sudden accelerations.
However, what the viewers didn’t see on TV was the fact that the crew modified the car and added an air compressor. Audi, on the other hand, strongly announced that it was all driver error. And they were right, because numerous tests in America, Canada and Japan all came to the conclusion that drivers simply confused the gas and brake pedals (they were pretty narrow-spaced). So, at the end of the day, Audi was justified, but the damage was still there. Today, 30 years later, that 60 minutes piece went down in history as one of the most misleading stories on national TV and in our Biggest Scandals In The Automobile Industry list.
The Biggest Scandals In The Automobile Industry – #5, The Takata Airbags
Of all the big-time recalls and huge scandals that affected millions of drivers all over the globe, the Takata airbag recall was the most “impressive” one. The case involved ten of the biggest majors in the industry and about 17 million cars sold. So, between 2000 and 2008 the company was building airbags that were sensitive to moisture and could deploy with excess force. When the airbags ruptured the metal housing, the car’s cabin instantly got filled with shrapnel and all kinds of chemicals, which could cause fatal injuries. A New York Time piece claimed that both Takata and Honda knew about this back in 2004 but kept in under the sheets. The American government fined Honda 70 million and Takata 14K for each day of refusing to cooperate with the investigation. Overall, about 30 million cars had the life-threatening airbags installed. And the worst thing is, YOU AND I could be driving a vehicle with a killer airbag right now! With our kids in it! Thankfully, there are tons of useful videos online that will help you solve the problem. So, these were the biggest scandals in the automobile industry, folks. Now you know that your favorite Ford and GM are not as honest as you thought they were :).
Check out this video–>What the VW scandal means for diesel cars – Newsnight: