2000 Ford Explorer
Before Toyota's problems came to light, the Ford/Firestone debacle was the most comprehensive, brand-damaging recall of the decade. In the late 1990s, owners reported the tires on their Ford Explorer SUVs were suffering tread separation--a problem which was linked to at least 270 deaths. With much foot-dragging and internal debate, the tire company recalled 6.5 million tires in August 2000 for tread separation; a year later, Ford itself recalled another 13 million tires at a cost estimated at $3 billion.
Throughout the 1990s, a huge swath of Ford vehicles came standard with a single type of cruise control. By 2000, that cruise-control switch was implicated in mysterious fires that occurred even after the vehicles in question had been turned off. In 2009, Ford finally completed its legal requirements in the recall, which would be widened several times to cover nearly 17.5 million vehicles from its Ford, Mercury and Lincoln brands, as well as a handful of Mazda pickups, all manufactured from 1993 to 2004. A troubling point: according to the NHTSA, through no fault of Ford's, many of the vehicles involved still have not been repaired.