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Visualized: 40 Years of U.S. Automobile Recalls

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Open the large interactive version here automobile recalls in the U.S. from 1983 to 2022

Open the large interactive version here automobile recalls in the U.S. from 1983 to 2022

Visualized: 40 Years of Automobile Recalls in the U.S.

In early February 2023, Honda issued a “Do Not Drive” warning for around 8,200 older cars equipped with the infamous Takata airbags.

These faulty airbags, installed by 19 different automakers including BMW and Toyota from 2002 to 2015, can explode when deployed and have led to numerous tragic accidents. Their recall affected 67 million airbags (including Honda’s vehicles above) and has been known as the largest safety recall in U.S. history.

Over the past four decades, there have been over 22,000 automobile recalls in the United States.

In this interactive piece, Chimdi Nwosu uses data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to visualize the types of automobile recalls over the past 40 years, the companies with the most recalls, the components that were recalled the most, and, most importantly, their impacts on people.

Breaking Down U.S. Automobile Recalls

Whether a recall affects specific vehicle components, equipment, or vehicles as a whole, it affects the lives of millions of automobile users.

When combined, these numbers ramp up exponentially. The U.S. alone has seen a total of 22,651 recalls over the past 40 years, impacting more than one billion people.

Recall Type# of U.S. Recalls (1983‒2022)People Affected
Vehicle19,686776.42M
Equipment2,303207.51M
Tire44236.53M
Car Seat22060.39M
Total22,6511,080.84M

Almost 72% of these people were affected by nearly 20,000 vehicle recalls, while around 19% were impacted by over 2,000 equipment recalls during this period. Comparatively, the 442 tire recalls and 220 child seat recalls affected significantly less, but still a total of 96.9 million people.

While an inconvenience to many, the recall of these faulty vehicle parts saves many more from unfortunate incidents that may have occurred if left unchecked.

Minor and Major Recalls

One of the largest recalls in history took place in 2014 when General Motors—the manufacturer with the highest total of recalls in four decades—recalled millions of vehicles including the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007 Pontiac G5, and 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, amongst others.

RankTop Manufacturer by
Recalls
# of U.S. Recalls (1983‒2022)
1General Motors1,237
2Ford1,056
3Chrysler909
4Forest River480
5Daimler Trucks474
6BMW463
7Volkswagen435
8Mercedes-Benz378
9Honda377
10Blue Bird359

The reason for this recall was a faulty ignition switch that caused the vehicle’s engine to shut down while driving, disabling safety systems including airbags. This fault led to the death of hundreds of people.

However, not all recalls are this severe. BMW, for example, recalled just four vehicles in December last year because one of the four bolts in the driver’s backrest was not attached properly.

Similarly in 2020, Ford recalled some of its vehicles due to a faulty door latch. While this recall inconvenienced over two million users, it was less likely to lead to severe consequences if left unchecked.

A Safer Future?

The number of automobile recalls over the past four decades has seen a steep rise. As have car safety standards.

While recalls could hint at the risks involved in taking your car out for a drive, they also indicate manufacturers taking responsibility for their faulty commodities, and affect a very small percentage of vehicles on the road.

To improve automobile safety, the NHTSA proposed a New Car Assessment Program in 2022, which provides vehicle users with safety ratings for every new vehicle. This five-star safety rating program rates the vehicles’ safety features, crashworthiness, and resistance to rollover.

With self-driving cars now also entering the mix, we need to stay informed about vehicle safety to keep our vehicles, our streets, and ourselves safe in the future.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Panama Canal Traffic by Shipment Category and Tonnage

This graphic illustrates Panama Canal traffic by shipment category, looking at the total number of shipping crossings and the total tonnage.

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Panama Canal traffic has been steadily restricted due to severe drought, affecting supply chains for U.S. and Asian importers. This graphic illustrates the total number of shipping crossings at the Canal throughout 2023.

Panama Canal Traffic by Shipment Category and Tonnage

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Daily Panama Canal traffic has been steadily restricted to start the year, with an expected peak reduction of over 40% by February 2024 due to severe drought. The problem is already affecting supply chains for U.S. and Asian importers.

This graphic illustrates the number of shipping crossings by market segment at the Canal and the net tonnage carried during the Annual Fiscal 2023 (October 2022 to September 2023). Data is from the Panama Canal Authority.

About the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is an artificial 82-kilometer (51-mile) waterway that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean, built between 1904 and 1914.

The Canal locks at each end lift ships to Gatun Lake, an artificial freshwater lake 26 meters (85 ft) above sea level. The shortcut dramatically reduces the time for ships to travel between the two oceans, enabling them to avoid the route around the southernmost tip of South America via the Drake Passage or Strait of Magellan.

The Panama Canal moves roughly $270 billion worth of cargo annually–it’s the trade route taken by 40% of all U.S. container traffic alone and handles about 5% of all global maritime trade.

The Driest October in 70 Years

Last October, however, Panama received 41% less rainfall than usual, leading to the driest October in 70 years in what was supposed to be Panama’s rainy season, bringing the level of the Gatun Lake almost six feet below where it was a year ago. Additionally, infrastructure constraints led the Panama Canal Authority to restrict the number of ships that could pass each day.

The principal commodity groups carried through the Canal are motor vehicles, petroleum products, grains, coal, and coke.

Market SegmentTransits (#)Net Tonnage (thousands)
Container2,787192,760
Dy Bulk2,64974,549
Chemical Tankers2,19648,825
Liquefied Petroleum Gas1,75764,969
Vehicle Carriers81349,871
Refrigerated5465,610
General Cargo5196,655
Crude Product Tankers49916,052
Liquefied Natural Gas32637,001
Other3061,718
Passengers24012,361
Total12,638510,370

According to the Panama Canal Authority, most of its traffic came from containers and dry bulk like soybeans. The world’s largest operator of chemical tankers (Stolt-Nielsen) typically also uses the Canal. However, due to the drought and the backup at the crossing, the operator has decided to reroute its fleet to the Suez Canal.

Although representing the smaller number of crossings, the Canal is also an important route for passengers, with many ocean cruise lines offering popular Panama Canal itineraries that sail through the Canal in the approximately 8-hour passage to their next destination in the opposite ocean.

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