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Connecticut To Share In $51M Ford Settlement

Dec 20, 2002 | AP

Ford Motor Co. will pay $51 million to settle claims by state attorneys general that the company's advertising fails to disclose the rollover risk involved with driving sport utility vehicles.

The money will be shared among each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Connecticut will get $900,000 in the settlement.

"Drivers deserve the truth in plain language about what can hurt them if they mishandle an SUV," Connecticut Attorney Richard Blumenthal said.

Ford also will include a disclaimer in advertising that shows aggressive driving. It will say, "Professional driver. Closed course. Do not attempt."

The Florida attorney general's office has led the case and was preparing to issue a statement Friday morning. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller held a news conference in Des Moines to disclose details.

Ford vice president and general counsel Dennis Ross issued a statement Friday morning that said the states' concerns related to common SUV advertising practices across the industry. He said as a result of the agreement, Ford will lead the industry with new consumer information about SUVs.

"Our existing practices, combined with new industry-leading practices, will help ensure that our SUV advertising will never be misconstrued," the statement said.

The states' claims stem from thousands of rollover accidents involving the Ford Explorer and faulty Firestone tires.

Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has recalled millions of ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires over the past two years because they are prone to losing their tread while the vehicle is speeding down the road. Most of the tires were sold as original equipment on the Explorer, the world's best-selling sport utility vehicle.

At least 271 U.S. traffic deaths have been linked to the failed tires.

Bridgestone/Firestone paid $41.5 million in a settlement reached last year to head off lawsuits by states over the defective tires.

As part of its settlement, Ford also agreed to share information with the federal government and competitors about its patented Belt-Minder technology, which reminds drivers to buckle up with five minutes of intermittent beeping and a flashing light on the instrument panel.

In a study of Belt-Minder, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that 76 percent of drivers in vehicles with the system wore a seat belt, compared with 71 percent in those without it.

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