Dear Ford Owner:
Thank you for contacting the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) concerning peeling paint on your Ford vehicle. In 1992, CAS petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and every state attorney general regarding paint peel on 1985-92 F-series trucks. In 1993, Ford set up Owner Dialogue Programs (ODP) on its vehicles with the worst peeling paint problems (F-series trucks, Bronco and Mustang) but, once the regulators looked the other way, Ford dropped the ODPs in 1994 because they cost the company over $1.5 billion according to The Wall Street Journal. Since 1994, Ford has covered up paint problems by buying off aggressive consumers under a secret warranty and ignoring consumers who don't complain loudly.
Two class action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Ford owners--one in Texas by Mithoff & Jacks, 111 Congress, Austin TX 78701 & one for the other 49 states in Louisiana by Becnel, Landry & Becnel, P.O. Drawer H, Reserve LA 70084. One need not contact these firms to be a part of the class action as the court will order notification of all owners covered by the class if a settlement is reached. "Dateline NBC" did a program on peeling paint on Nov. 2, 1997, and has an Internet website, www.dateline.msnbc.com, from which further information can be obtained.
CAS is aware of paint peel on the following Ford vehicles: Aerostar, Bronco, Bronco II, Econoline, Escort, EXP, F-series trucks, LTD, Mustang, Probe, Ranger, Sable, Taurus, Tempo, Thunderbird and Tracer. Ford owners assert that the condition exists on additional models. To force Ford to take full responsibility for this most costly secret warranty ever, CAS met with the FTC and contacted state attorney generals about Ford's reversion to stonewall tactics.
It is important to distinguish paint peel from other paint conditions. Paint peel and severe flaking, as addressed in CAS' 1992 petition to the FTC, are conditions in which a vehicle's colorcoat (i.e. blue, gray, red, etc.) lifts away from the underlying anti-corrosion primer coat which is generally a dull gray color. On vehicles suffering paint peel, the colorcoat peels off of the horizontal surfaces, such as the hood, cowl and roof, first. On severely affected vehicles, the vertical surfaces, such as the quarter panels, will also peel. The best analogy for the Ford paint peel condition is the after effects of a bad sunburn. Following a bad sunburn, the skin, like the colorcoat, often blisters and then peels away in large patches.
If your vehicle suffers from the condition described above, CAS suggests you take the following action to obtain financial assistance from Ford outside of the express warranty period.
- Contact the service manager at your local Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealership. Maintain a cordial relationship with the dealer personnel as they can actively help you obtain assistance from the Ford Motor Company. The service manager has direct access to the Ford field representative and should submit your request for financial assistance to the field representative.
- If the field representative's offer of financial assistance is unsatisfactory, write to Ford directly at the following address: Ford Customer Assistance Center, PO Box 43360, Detroit MI 48243. While it is unlikely Ford's written response will differ from the field representative's offer, it is important to have proof in writing of your demand for financial assistance from Ford. Written documentation will be necessary in the event you later file a small claims court lawsuit against Ford.
- Once you have secured Ford's response to your paint peel concern, it will be necessary to decide whether or not to accept any offer of financial assistance. Often, Ford will offer to pay between 50-75% of the estimated cost to repaint a vehicle affected by paint peel. You may consider accepting this offer, and hope that the class action forces Ford to reimburse all owners who have paid any amount towards repainting a vehicle due to paint peel.
- If you find Ford's response to be unacceptable, you can sue Ford in small claims court. As a practical matter, try to get your case scheduled to be heard on a Friday afternoon or early Monday morning. Because most Ford field representatives have "travel zones" requiring them to drive or fly out to their zones on Monday and return home on Friday, cases heard on a Monday morning or Friday afternoon gives the factory representative additional incentive to settle with you out-of-court. Furthermore, Ford representatives hate spending half a day in small claims court so many will settle with you upon receipt of the small claims court documents. Be sure to list your phone number on the court papers so the factory representative can contact you more readily.
If your case does not settle before the court hearing, it is important to know a couple legal terms. One term is "statute of limitations (SoL)" which means, in general, that a given number of years, usually four, have elapsed since the purchase date of the vehicle and this passage of time precludes one from suing. If SoL is mentioned, respond by claiming that the "discovery rule" should apply in your case. The discovery rule is a legal concept that "tolls" (suspends) the SoL as it was impossible to discover the matter being sued over within the statute of limitations time period. As a consumer, you could not have known of Ford's latent paint defect until the paint started peeling/flaking off of your vehicle. Arguably, even if the paint started peeling/flaking years ago, you did not learn of the paint defect until June 1992 when the media publicized CAS' action regarding the Ford paint peel defect. Some judges may decide that the statute of limitations did not commence running until you actually learned that the paint condition on your vehicle was the result of a concealed, latent manufacturing defect.
If you go to court, we recommend that you obtain a copy of CAS' petitions to the FTC. The "Ford FTC Paint Petition" costs $25 and includes several internal Ford Motor Company documents which indicate that Ford has been well aware of the deficiencies in its paint process for a number of years. From these documents, it can readily be inferred that Ford also knew that the problem affected vehicles other than the F-series Trucks. Ask the judge to order Ford to reimburse the $25 cost as part of the cost of filing suit. Also ask the court to order Ford to produce records on how many vehicles by model and year it repainted for free. Be sure to take along to court photos of your vehicle and estimates from local, reputable repair shops of the cost to repaint your vehicle.
You should also write letters to help make state and federal officials aware of the widespread nature of the Ford paint peel defect. Include information regarding the make, model, year and color of your vehicle as well as a brief overview of your experiences to date in your attempt to get Ford to pay for the cost to repaint your vehicle. Include photos since a picture of your peeling Ford says it all. Be sure to send CAS copies of your letters. The individuals to write are as follows:
- Your state attorney general. His/her address can be found in a phone book under the listing of state agencies.
- Federal Trade Commission. Address your letter to: Edith Ramirez, Chairperson; Federal Trade Commission; 6th & Pennsylvania Avenue NW; Washington DC 20580.
You'll find more information on what you can do about peeling paint and other Ford defects plus a complaint box. Your information will help us build a strong case against Ford as we fight for action on Ford defects.
We need you to support the Center for Auto Safety in our fight for consumer rights and against poorly designed and unsafe cars. Your contribution is tax-deductible which entitles you to our quarterly newsletter, Lemon Times. Please submit the membership form along with your contribution and complaint. If you contribute $40 or more, we will send you the current edition of The Car Book, by Jack Gillis.
Clarence M. Ditlow