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Ford In The Hot-Seat Over Handling Of Door Safety Issue

May 4, 2004 | The Ford Motor Co. decided against a massive recall involving some of its most popular trucks despite internal questions about the quality of certain parts, it was reported.

The number two US automaker overruled its own safety engineers' recommendation to recall up to 4.1 million pickups and sport utility vehicles that were found to have substandard door latches, reported the Detroit Free Press citing to internal company documents that have surfaced in recent court cases.

A Ford safety engineering team determined in March 2000 that door latches on certain pick-ups, including its best-selling F-150 series truck, did not meet federal safety standards, the documents show.

Ford ordered immediate design changes for future vehicles, but decided against a recall which could have cost up to 527 million dollars after the company determined the latches could pass a rarely used, alternative compliance test.

The company now faces a slew of product liability lawsuits stemming from fatal accidents in which malfunctioning vehicle doors allegedly contributed to the death or injury of motorists, and or, passengers.

Last week, Ford settled two wrongful death lawsuits in Texas for an undisclosed sum. The attorneys in the case had argued that defective latches contributed to the deaths of the two women during a roll-over accident involving an F-150.

Lawyers suing Ford say the company's internal documents paint a detailed picture of an automaker failing to address a safety issue because of financial concerns.

Regulators are studying the Ford documents, and have approached Ford about the matter, but indicated it is too early to say where those inquiries might lead.

"We had the issue brought to our attention by one of the expert witnesses advising the lawyers in one of these cases, and we're looking at the situation," said Rae Tyson, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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