Ford Owners Warned Again on Defective Cruise Control SwitchFeb 29, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Faulty Ford cruise control switches are the subject of yet another consumer safety warning. Thursday, the government warned owners of about 4.6 million recalled Ford vehicles to bring their cars and trucks in immediately to dealerships to disconnect the cruise control switch systems because they have been linked to engine fires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued the consumer advisory to owners of some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, vans, and passenger cars that have not yet been repaired as the owners have not yet responded to past recalls. The recalls affect Ford’s popular F-Series pickup trucks, prompting hundreds of complaints and dozens of lawsuits over engine fires. Three deaths have been connected to the fires and Ford has struggled to produce enough parts to correct the problem.
About 9.6 million Ford vehicles have been recalled since 1999 and about five million have been fixed, raising concerns about the remaining vehicles on the road, between four and five million. NHTSA said they have received approximately 60 complaints of engine fires in the Ford vehicles since August 2007. Ford said they supported the action and dealers would soon offer a more permanent fix. "We absolutely want everybody to come in as soon as they can because we can eliminate the risk of fire for anyone with a vehicle in this recall," said Ford Motor Co. spokesman Wes Sherwood. He said the company would have an "ample supply" of the replacement parts by June.
The NHTSA said many dealers will disconnect the cruise control switches as a "drive through" service so owners do not have to leave their vehicles at the dealership or schedule an appointment. Dealers have also installed a fused wiring harness into the speed control electrical system as part of the recall, but replacement parts have not yet been widely available. Owners can take their vehicle to a dealer to have the cruise control deactivated pending arrival of the parts. The NHTSA issued a lengthy list of older vehicles covered by the consumer advisory, including 1993-2004 Ford F150 trucks, 1994-2002 F250 through F550 Super Duty trucks with gasoline engines, and 1998-2001 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer SUVs, all of which were among the best-selling vehicles in the nation during those years. A complete list is available at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/.
But, there have been problems with the Ford recalls. Earlier this month, Ford recalled about 225,000 vehicles that had already been repaired because some wiring harnesses appeared to be defective. Ford also has to resolve over 100 lawsuits nationwide because of fires tied to the cruise control deactivation switch. Many Ford vehicle owners claim the fires began after the vehicles were turned off; there have been three deaths attributed to that problem in Iowa, Georgia, and Arkansas. Last week, Ford successfully consolidated 77 lawsuits filed in Texas so that a single judge can handle pre-trial discovery. According to Ford, it claims its internal investigations revealed the fires did not cause deaths and injuries. "In the cases where there was that allegation, we found that the source of the fire was unrelated to the vehicle," said Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley.