Ford Corrosion The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) today petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to order Ford Motor Company to notify owners of two million 1986-93 Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable and Lincoln Continental cars in 36 states that two costly, secret corrosion defects may affect their vehicles, and that owners in 14 other states got safety recalls. CAS also called on the FTC to order Ford to reimburse owners for repairs that cost $300 or more for each defect - (1) brake rotor hub failure which can cause loss of brakes and (2) subframe mount failure which can cause loss of steering. If granted, CAS' request could cost Ford up to a half-billion dollars.
While Ford agreed to safety recalls using new corrosion resistant parts in 14 states with high salt use, the company reneged on a promise to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it would enter the repair in its national dealer computer system called OASIS so that consumers in the other 36 states who have failures would get free repairs just by contacting dealers. As a result consumers in the non-salt belt states have to pay for the expensive repairs themselves.
In the brake rotor defect, Ford used a composite rotor hub that corrodes when exposed to salt and can separate causing brake failure. In the subframe defect, corrosion of the mounting bolts can cause the subframe to drop with loss of steering. In states with heavy salt use, the failures appear sooner. In states with less salt use or for cars that travel through or come from salt belt states, the failures occur at higher mileage and generally without warning. CAS staff attorney Anu Ashutosh said:
This is a classic secret warranty in which only consumers who complain loud enough get reimbursed.
When Ford reneged on its promise to NHTSA to notify owners through its dealer network in the 36 states outside the 14 salt-belt state safety recall, NHTSA should have expanded its recall to cover all 50 states. Instead when states like Maryland asked for an expansion of the recall, NHTSA chose to protect Ford over consumers.
We call on the FTC to stand up for consumers rather than lying down as NHTSA did. Even though NHTSA did the wrong thing by not ordering a safety recall, the FTC can do the right thing for consumers by finding this a secret warranty and an unfair trade practice with national notice and free repairs for all consumers. NHTSA should hide its head in disgrace.