The National Highway Traffics Safety Administration (NHTSA) has asked Tesla to recall 158,000 vehicles for potential safety concerns related to defective “media control units”, i.e. touch displays. The issue, caused by faulty flash memory chips, affects certain Model S and X vehicles from 2012 through 2018 and has been deemed relevant to motor vehicle safety by the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation, thus warranting a recall.
As the following chart shows, such recalls are quite common and have become increasingly frequent over the past decade. In 2019 alone, 38.5 million vehicles were affected by 881 recalls, up from 19.7 million vehicles in 647 recalls in 2010.
With Tesla having produced around 1.5 million cars in its brief history, the company was never going to make the list of the largest recalls in history. That honor belongs to Ford, which had to recall 21 million vehicles in 1981 for a faulty powertrain that slipped out of the “park” position and rolled away causing thousands of accidents over the years. Back then, Ford found a cheap workaround solution to the problem, mailing out warning labels to 21 million owners rather than fixing the actual problem – a practice that seems unthinkable nowadays.