Ford FINALLY Expands F150 Airbag Recall, But Where’s The Fine?

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In February, Ford announced an F150 recall pertaining to spontaneously exploding airbags. This recall was significant because:

  1. NHTSA instructed Ford to recall approximately 1.5 million trucks for this problem
  2. Ford decided to ignore the government and recall just 150k trucks instead
  3. Now, two months later, Ford has finally followed NHTSA instructions and recalled 1.5 million F150s

Of course, I cried foul when Ford ignored the government recall recommendation. How could Ford blatantly disregard NHTSA safety instructions? What’s more, how could Ford ignore a government safety mandate without risking a media firestorm and a massive NHTSA fine?

Yet Ford Motor Company somehow managed to ignore a NHTSA two months ago – and then flip-flop – without any sort of outcry. Be it political influence or just plain ignorance, something stinks at NHTSA.

NHTSA Credibility In Shambles

Some people may believe that my outrage about this incident is somehow related to the way NHTSA treated Toyota this time last year – that I’m only upset because NHTSA cracked down on Toyota…but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I believe that NHTSA safety recall recommendations should always be followed. If automakers are allowed to ignore recall recommendations or pick and choose implementation, we all lose because our government is an extension of us.

Besides, all automakers are given a chance to convince NHTSA to change a recall recommendation. An automaker has a right to ‘state their case’ about a potential recall before it’s announced to the public. If Ford wasn’t able to convince NHTSA to shrink the size of the recall prior to the public announcement, they should have accepted NHTSA’s ruling, taken their lumps for a massive F150 recall, and then move on.

Instead, Ford decided to ignore NHTSA.

Recalls Aren’t Required – At Least Not Initially

Technically, NHTSA recall suggestions don’t have to be followed – at least not immediately. The law states that an automaker has the right to fight a recall by presenting their case in a public hearing. If, after the public hearing NHTSA’s suggestions are still valid, the recall then becomes officially mandated.

For obvious reasons (aka media circus), very few automakers choose to have their recall debated in a public hearing. It’s incredibly rare, in fact.

However, Ford Motor Company seems to have found some sort of loophole that allowed them to lessen the impact of their recall announcement without getting up in front of Congress. Ford’s “trick” was to initially disagree with the recommendation before later acquiescing. The advantage? Announcing a recall in two parts makes for a more favorable news cycle.

My problem is, I want automakers to follow NHTSA rules and recommendations religiously because I believe that’s the best policy for the safety of our nation. If we allow automakers to pick and choose how to implement recalls – even if only for a few weeks while they try to manipulate media coverage – we’re taking the risk that someone could get hurt.

So NHTSA officials, I have one question: Where’s the fine?

Filed Under: Auto News


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  1. Mickey says:

    What’s more, how could Ford ignore a government safety mandate without risking a media firestorm and a massive NHTSA fine?

    Answer: Ray Lahood…. Period…. If I was Toyota I would be suing our govt. This flat out shows exactly where Lahood stood before. Now it shows why he did it also. Amazing how can a so call US company can manipulate the system. Creditability it a total loss for NHTSA. Why should I believe them about the air traffic controllers?

  2. Mickey says:

    Jason did you expect something different? I don’t anymore.

  3. mk says:

    Heck, if GM and Chrysler had a significant recall that should come out, NHTSA will cover it up for sure since the bankruptcies since they are both owned by the govt. still. Yah, I agree ford should be fined heavily just like Toyota had done to them in error since their recalls were never proven to be necessary if you ask me in the first place.

  4. TXTee says:

    I crack up every time I get a Corolla or Camry as my rental and the floor mats are gone. It’s beyond stupid. And now the dealership likes to move my floor mats and throw them in the trunk and leave a crappy note on the passenger seat stating the removal. It’s all a big joke and I still don’t get the “stuck pedal” fiasco. It just goes to show that media will do what they want to try and persuade those who don’t take the time to do self-investigation. It’s unfortunate but with the internet, people have become lazy about tracking details and getting to the bottom of the matter. Instead of being more informed, we’re just less informed at a faster pace. Good luck to Ford and the owners who I hope aren’t negatively impacted by the company’s ignorance.

  5. mk says:

    txtee, if the dealer moved my floormats and put a note on the seat stating as such without telling me first, I would go to the service mgr., tell him to personally vacuum my floor, wash and detail my truck, put my floor mats back in, and write a note to me stating he will never do that again. Same goes for if they did the stupid recall on my gas pedals for my corolla and tundra without telling me first and just did it. I paid for the darn truck and it is mine, do NOT alter it first in any shape or form without telling me first. How rude of them to so such a thing without at least asking you first. I am curious though on how many ford truck air bags deployed in error, what 2-3 out of how many 100’s of thousands? Maybe I am wrong and it has happened to several 1,000’s of ford trucks, but it could be just like toyota’s gas pedal recall which is a joke and not proved that it was needed if you ask me.

  6. Jason (Admin) says:

    Mickey – I really wanted to write that LaHood was an idiot again, but it didn’t fit. However, for what it’s worth, I agree. LaHood and Obama are from Illinois, and that’s union country. I bet torturing Toyota while letting Ford bend the rules plays really well with the AFL-CIO.

    To answer your second question, I honestly did. Silly me, right? 🙂

    mk – I think that Toyota was the victim of a runaway media.

    TXTee – I was just telling a friend of mine that intellectual laziness is one of the biggest problems in America. Here here.

    mk – I’m guessing the dealership does that because they’re afraid of a lawsuit. I’m with you that it’s stupid – just saying they’re probably paranoid because someone in the legal establishment made a threat.

  7. Mickey says:

    Thanks Jason for being on the forefront on this matter. I for one am telling everyone I know to get people stirred about this. I am also sending NHTSA a letter about how I feel they are doing here on this matter. Either you for the people or you’re not. There is no fence jumping here. If you can’t stay the same on all events then don’t expect me to listen to anything they put out.

  8. Jason (Admin) says:

    Mickey – Thank you! I hear you…I’m going to follow your lead and complain to NHTSA and my congressmen too. No automaker should be allowed to ignore a NHTSA recommendation without some sort of consequence.

  9. […] standard on NHTSA to them and my congressman as to why there is nothing being done about this: Ford FINALLY Expands F150 Airbag Recall, But Where’s The Fine? | Tundra Headquarters Also this is why we keep buying Tundra's: Reports 8% Increase in Used Tundra Values […]

  10. Justin says:

    You guys/gals are hilarious. Comparing a 9+ million vehicle recall that appears to have been covered up for years (all while the executives were bragging about the money savings), to 1.5 million trucks that Ford simply asked the NHTSA to narrow the scope of the recall (because all vehicles involved came from one particular facility) is quite different. A recall is a recall, which is good for the consumer, don’t get me wrong. But how NHTSA had to go about each recall was drastically different. This recall and the actions of Ford are in no way similar to those of Toyota and their recent floor-mat/pedal recalls. Oh, and my F150 wasn’t recalled as it has the newest version of the wiring harness.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Jason: Ford did not ignore/disregard the NHTSA’s request as you state. Sure Ford challenged the recall of 1.5 million trucks, that is true. But Ford worked alongside the NHTSA the entire time to determine whether just those trucks from the Norfolk plant should be recalled, or if all 04-06 F150’s should be recalled. So your statement of Ford ignoring the NHTSA or disregarding the NHTSA’s request is completely false.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ford did nothing wrong. They tracked down the problem to 1 plant, fixed the issue, recalled only the trucks affected. The problem didn’t exist in the trucks built at other plants, so why do they need to be recalled?

  13. Jason (Admin) says:

    Justin – If Ford challenged the recall, then they should have gone through the formal process and had a congressional hearing.

    Instead, they “disputed” the recall and got to break it into two parts…it seems to me like an attempt to control the news cycle. It shouldn’t be allowed.

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