Letter to NHTSA Administrator Runge from Ralph Nader

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.

August 26, 2005

Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20590 

Dear Administrator Runge:

I am writing to request that the general public be afforded the same expert safety advice provided to the producers and viewers of the Cable News Network. Specifically, I urge NHTSA to issue a consumer advisory detailing the life-threatening hazards of certain Ford model trucks which are prone to speed control deactivation switch (SCDS) failure and related engine compartment fire.

According to the transcript of an August 16 CNN report, NHTSA personnel responded to an inquiry from CNN regarding increased rates of vehicle fire in late-model Ford F-150’s, Expeditions, and Lincoln Navigators with an email stating that "Any Ford owner experiencing problems related to the cruise control switch should get the problem repaired at a Ford dealer, and until you do, NHTSA now tells Ford owners, do not park your vehicle in your garage."

Yet it is unclear just how NHTSA is instructing Ford owners about where and where not to park their vehicles, considering that the agency has never made such a statement on its website or in any official news release.

In fact, NHTSA’s comment to CNN indicates that a serious danger has been corroborated by the ongoing defect investigation of SCDS failure/engine fire in Ford trucks.

According to CNN, the agency has received more than 550 reports of spontaneous fires, and over half of these models have not been voluntarily recalled by Ford. The central North Carolina Courier-Times reported in an August 17 story that a 2001 Ford Expedition was the cause of an extensive home fire. The Courier-Times quotes Ceffo Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief Doug Robinson: "If I were asked, I would say the vehicle caused the house to burn." Other damaging blazes warrant more investigation than have been accorded them.

NHTSA’s mission to save lives impels it to alert the public of these automotive time-bombs.

Prudence dictates you quickly issue a consumer advisory.


Ralph Nader