After years of stonewalling, Ford has agreed to recall 1998-03 Windstars for rear axle that crack and can break in half. CAS began receiving complaints in 2008 and brought the failures to NHTSA’s attention. Yet it was not until after John Arout of Staten Island NY began a campaign for a recall and got the New York Times’ attention that NHTSA opened an investigation on May 13, 2010.
NHTSA based its investigation on 234 complaints including two accidents. On July 20, 2010, Ford denied there was a defect and told NHTSA 1999-03 Ford Windstars “have performed well despite their age (some have been in service for more than 12 years) and the cumulative mileage they have traveled (over 120 billion miles). This information also demonstrates that the vehicles should remain controllable even in the event of a complete axle fracture and separation.” Just one month and 6 days later on August 26, 2010 under pressure from NHTSA, Ford agreed to a voluntary recall of all 1998-03 Windstars made through February 28, 2003 but limited the recall to 462,750 Windstars sold or registered in 21 salt-belt states and the District of Columbia.
NHTSA closed its investigation on September 22, 2010, reporting 891 complaints including 8 crashes with 3 injuries. After CAS forwarded a post February 2003 manufactured Windstar rear axle fracture report on October 21, 2010, Ford agreed on November 30, 2010, to extend the recall to all 2003 Windstars and to include Utah as a covered state.
The recall itself is proving to be as tortured a process as the events leading up to the recall. Replacement axles will not be available until January 2011. In the meantime, owners are bringing their Windstars in for inspection with those that have cracks in the rear axle either being bought by Ford or the owners given rental cars until repair parts are available. The risk to the public of the delayed recall is obvious. One fatal crash occurred in Massachusetts in late October just three days before the owner got the futile recall notice in the mail.
NHTSA Information Request to Ford – 6/4/10
Ford Response to Information Request – 7/20/10
NHTSA Presentation to Ford – 7/21/10
NHTSA Presentation to Ford – 7/27/10
Ford Recall Notice – 8/26/10
Email from CAS to NHTSA – 10/22/10
Ford Dealer Bulletin Supplement – 10/28/10
Ford Amended Recall Notice – 11/30/10