NHTSA Gambles With Focus Owners’ Lives

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.

NHTSA Gambles With Focus Owners’ Lives; No Recall Is Bad Law and Bad Safety

In an unprecedented decision that is both bad law and bad safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) closed a defect investigation into 573,585 2000-02 Ford Focus for stalling due to defective fuel delivery modules ("fuel pumps") by permitting Ford to replace the fuel pumps after they fail. During its investigation NHTSA found "the Focus will stall at all speeds without notice." (EA02-022 Opening Resume.) Even when NHTSA closed past investigations with "service campaigns," the campaigns involved the manufacturer replacing the defective part prior to failure.

Center for Auto Safety (CAS) Executive Director Clarence Ditlow criticized NHTSA for ignoring its own successful litigation record on stalling and over a hundred previous stalling recalls and being less able than private lawyers in standing up to Ford: Mr. Ditlow said:

NHTSA’s decision to gamble with Focus owners’ lives is bad law and bad safety

. In the 1970’s, NHTSA won two cases, United States v. General Motors Corp., 417 F.Supp 933 (D.D.C.), 565 F.2d 754 (1977) and United States v. Ford Motor Co., 453 F.Supp 1240 (D.D.C. 1978) where two US District Courts held vehicles stopped on the roadway or even on the roadside were safety defects. NHTSA has conducted over 100 safety recalls for stalling. By caving in to Ford, NHTSA admits that its lawyers are either less capable or more politically bound than class action attorneys who can win trials on stalling as a safety defect as in Howard v. Ford Motor Co., No. 763785-2, Alameda County, Calif. Super Ct.(Oct. 11, 2000). There Judge Ballachey held "stalling, under almost any circumstances, presents an unreasonable risk to automobile safety and to the safety of the occupants of any such vehicle. It would defy common sense and the weight of the evidence to find otherwise." (Id. At 12.)

In a letter today, the Center asked NHTSA to reopen the investigation and order a safety recall to prevent deadly stalls in the Ford Focus from happening by replacing the fuel pump before it fails rather than gambling with consumers’ lives by replacing the fuel pump after it fails.

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Related Documents:

Administrator Runge Response – 2/13/04

CAS Letter to Administrator Runge – 11/25/03

NHTSA Response to Ford – 11/21/03

Ford Letter to NHTSA – 11/19/03

Ford Campaign 03N01

Stalling Recalls – Detailed List

CAS’ Ford Focus Problems Page

Is Ford Covering Up Focus Malfunction? – November 09 2006