Court Orders Ford To Recall 1.8 Million Vehicles In California For Stalling

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Ford Concealed Defect That Increases Fatal Crashes 9% from Regulators and Public for Years

In a landmark decision, California State Judge Michael Ballachey announced he would order the recall of 1.8 million 1983-95 Ford vehicles in California with defective ignition modules that fail and case dangerous stalls on highways. Judge Ballachey found that vehicles with the defective modules had a 9% higher fatal crash record than ones with safer ignition systems. Judge Ballachey’s ruling is the first court order of a recall in the United States outside the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Judge Ballachey found:

Ford withheld responsive information from NHTSA that it was obligated to provide. [p. 5] It was not for Ford to decide what “safety” meant, or what levels of warranty returns obligated it to report to the EPA. Ford’s responsibility was to respond to legitimate government inquiries with appropriate information so that independent evaluation could determine the presence or absence of a problem. [p. 6] Ford failed to meet its obligations to report safety related defect information to relevant governmental agencies and, by so doing concealed vital information related to vehicle safety from the consuming public. This fraudulent concealment…constitutes a violation of both Civil Code sections 1770(a)(5) and (7). [p. 8]

Center for Auto Safety Executive Director Clarence Ditlow said:

Once again, Ford has been caught concealing a serious safety defect. First, the government fined Ford $425,000 in 1999 for failing to earlier recall 8 million vehicles with ignition switches that caused fires. Then Ford covered up Firestone tire failures and rollovers on Explorers. Now it’s ignition modules on 20 million vehicles that cause hazardous stalling. Coverups have become a corporate culture at Ford Motor Company.

During the 1980’s, NHTSA conducted five investigations into stalling in Ford vehicles. During those investigations, Ford withheld documents from NHTSA that would have shown a common cause of stalling – failure of the Thick Film Ignition (TFI) module mounted on the distributor when its temperature rises above 125 degrees Celsius and cuts out, causing the vehicle to stall on the highway. Additional class actions are pending in other states across the nation including Alabama, Illinois, Maryland, Washington, and Tennessee.

Click here to see the court’s final decision, in Adobe Acrobat Reader (.pdf) format. Download Acrobat Reader.

For more information on the TFI class action suit and to find out if your vehicle may be one of the susceptible models, click here

Click here to view NHTSA Letter Re: Ford Document Production