Some notable car recalls in recent history include:
Toyota suffered a hugely damaging blow to its reputation for quality between late 2009 and early 2011 when it recalled more than 10 million cars due to sudden unintended acceleration as well as brake and fuel pump problems.
The acceleration issue was tracked to floor mats getting lodged in the foot pedal well and to the pedal getting mechanically stuck. Numerous lawsuits were launched against the car maker but some of the problems were also attributed to driver error - mistaking the brake pedal for the accelerator. In December, Toyota reached a settlement worth more than US$1 billion to resolve the lawsuits. There have been a number of further Toyota recalls since, for other glitches, such as 7.4 million cars called back in October because a faulty window switch was a possible fire hazard.
In March 2010, the US giant General Motors recalled 1.3 million compact cars due to problems with their power steering system. Three months later, it called back 1.5 million lorries, crossovers and cars because the unit that heats windscreen washer fluid could catch fire.
German car makers have had major recalls too. In October 2010, BMW recalled 350,000 cars worldwide due to possible brake problems with its 5, 6 and 7 Series. In March last year, the car maker called back 1.3 million Series 5 and Series 6 vehicles due to a problem with a battery cable cover in the boot. And in February this year it recalled 750,000 cars in the United States, Japan, Canada and South Africa due to a possible electrical failure that could cause the engine to stall or prevent it from starting. VW has recalled half a million cars including its best-selling Golf and the Passat model this year due to its gearbox, which appears to be having trouble coping with hot, humid climates. It has recalled vehicles in China, Japan, Singapore and Australia.
In April, South Korea's Hyundai and its Kia affiliate took 1.8 million cars off US roads because of faulty brake light switches, which meant stepping on the brake may fail to illuminate the brake lights and fail to deactivate cruise control.
Airbags are a frequent reason for recalls. Between 2008 and 2011, Honda recalled 1.65 million vehicles because of the risk that airbags may inflate at too high a pressure.
In April, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda recalled 3.4 million vehicles because of defective airbags supplied by Takata. Takata airbags also led to a BMW calling back some 220,000 cars this year.
Sometimes, the reason for a recall is simply bizarre.
A tiny spider led to some 65,000 Mazda cars being called back in 2011. Yellow sac spiders were found to have moved into the fuel system of 20 Mazda 6 saloons. Their sticky webs could block an air vent to the fuel tank, potentially leading to negative air pressure inside the tank, leading to cracks and the possibility of fire. That never actually happened but Mazda fitted a spring to keep the spiders out in future.
An ingenious Mazda spokesman tried to get a bit of it positive publicity from the case, declaring the spider may have been attracted by the specific growl of the 4-cylinder engine.