Ford recalls 1.2M F-150 pickups
#1
DAVID SHEPARDSON
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Detroit— Under government pressure, Ford Motor Co. has agreed to recall 1.2 million more F-150 pickup trucks after more than 200 reports of sudden, unexpected air-bag deployments.

The new recall includes some 2006 Lincoln Mark LT pickups.

The Dearborn automaker agreed to recall the 2004-2006 F-150 vehicles under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a notice posted on the government's website.

NHTSA said it has reports of at least 269 air-bag deployments and 98 injuries from suspect F-150s. Injuries include chipped teeth, fractured arms and burns.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland praised Ford's decision.

"We are pleased that Ford shares our commitment to safety and is taking action to protect consumers by expanding its safety recall to include an additional 1.2 million Ford F-150 and Lincoln Mark LT vehicles," he said. "We hope to continue working cooperatively with auto manufacturers to ensure safety defects are addressed quickly for the driving public."

In February, the Dearborn automaker said it would recall 135,000 2005-06 F-150 trucks in the United States over concerns raised by the government that air bags could deploy without warning. But that was a fraction of the 1.3 million vehicles that NHTSA demanded Ford recall in a Jan. 26 letter.

"The bottom line is that this problem will only multiply. To remedy it, the agency firmly believes Ford must initiate a recall," said a Jan. 26 letter to Ford signed by Frank Borris, a NHTSA enforcement attorney.

Ford made two separate design changes to the F-150 in 2006 after numerous reports of air bags deploying without warning.

Ford — which had vigorously opposed the expansion and said it wasn't necessary — said in its letter to NHTSA it will expand the recall "to reassure customers of Ford's commitment to safety and to eliminate any possible customer confusion." Owners will get a new clockspring jumper wire installed that incorporates a special mesh cover.

NHTSA's letter had warned that if Ford didn't agree to a recall, the agency could convene a formal public hearing to compel a recall — a rarely used step that hasn't happened in decades.

In agreeing to the settlement, Ford will avoid the potential embarrassment in which safety regulators publicly lay out the evidence.

The cause of the Ford air-bag deployments is an electrical short, according to the NHTSA.

NHTSA said over the last 27 years, it has opened 33 investigations into sudden air-bag deployment — and said 269 air-bag deployments "represented the most incidents ever recorded in any inadvertent air-bag deployment investigation or recall in NHTSA history."

NHTSA argues the Ford failure rate is 20 incidents per 100,000 vehicles, while Ford calculates it at 5.3 per 100,000.

Ford discounts many incidents where the cause isn't stated or determined in reports. NHTSA disagrees with Ford's methodology and says "in any event" the number of incidents is significant.

The agency has taken a hard line with automakers over safety issues over the last year, especially in the wake of Toyota Motor Corp.'s sudden acceleration issues.

Ford had argued that its limited recall makes sense because of the higher failure rate at one of the three plants where the F-150 was assembled.

But NHTSA officials contended that since the same suspect part was in all F-150 vehicles built in the time frame, Ford should recall all of them.

A team of Ford officials led by group vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering Sue Cischke met with senior NHTSA officials in Washington on Feb. 25 to discuss the issue.

The only crash reported was when a driver jumped out of the car after the air bag deployed, mistakenly thinking the vehicle was on fire.

NHTSA warns that the problem "will steadily increase over time."

It also says some dealers are unaware of the problem — and that drivers who see the air-bag light may have no idea that it means the air bag may deploy without warning.

Ford said most drivers have responded to warning lights by going to a dealer to get the problem fixed.

In one complaint filed with NHTSA, a Ford owner went to a dealer after the air-bag light was illuminated but was sent home because the parts were not in stock. The air bag deployed before the dealership had the parts in stock.

Ford said it will notify owners in May.

"We understand the government's desire to reach a broad group of potentially affected consumers and will recall the remaining population of trucks for our customers' peace of mind," Ford said in a statement.

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That could give Ferrari a bad name recalling F150's Crazy
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