NHTSA Expands Ford F-150 Pickup Probe

Although car giant, Ford, previously stated that the problem with its <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/ford_f-150">F-150 pickups—the gas tanks can break loose from these pickups—do not represent “an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is stepping up its probe of 2.7 million model year 1997-2001 pickups, said the New York Times.

After 243 reports of F-150 gas tanks breaking off of the Ford pickups and being dragged, the NHTSA moved for more intense investigation, said the New York Times. One of the Ford-reported cases involved a fire that destroyed the pickup; no injuries were reported. Another nine reports, said the New York Times, involved sparking from the defective gas tanks.

Last year, the agency opened a so-called preliminary evaluation. In response, Ford wrote back saying that the strap failure rate was “remarkably low” and “the majority (over 80 percent) of reports of strap fracture that were identified make no mention of any resulting fuel leak…. In the event the tank does make ground contact, customers again indicate they became aware through the associated noise and subsequently maneuver their vehicle to a safe location,” quoted the New York Times.

The NHTSA asked for more data and, in a posting on its website, said that gas leaked in 95 of the 243 reports. “When the tank drops, it remains attached to the vehicle only by the fuel filler hose and/or supply lines, or in rare instances, by the skid plate, if present…. This raises the possibility that the weight of the dropped tank could sufficiently strain the hoses and fittings to cause separation and fuel leaks between those components…. The fire hazard created by the leaking gasoline is increased by the possible presence of sparks created by the metal tank being dragged along the road,” quoted the New York Times from the NHTSA report.

While the NHTSA’s action does not mean a recall is guaranteed, it is a critical move in that process, noted the New York Times.

We just wrote that Ford made headlines for a recall over unintended acceleration issues. In that case, the NHTSA is investigating some 170,000 Ford Freestyle crossover SUVs from model years 2005-2007. Following 238 complaints and 18 crashes over unintended “lunging” when driving at low speeds and when the gas pedal is not engaged, the NHTSA opened its investigation, it said on its website; one crash resulted in minor injuries, noted Bloomberg News previously.

We also just wrote that lawsuits involving Ford Navistar 6L Power Stroke Diesel Engines are moving forward. The Ford Navistar litigation had been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) and transferred to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Earlier this month, the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) in the litigation was announced. The attorneys appointed to the Ford Navistar PSC include Peter Cambs, a lawyer with the national law firm of Parker Waichman Alonso LLP.

An MDL allows lawsuits associated with a particular product to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery and inconsistent rulings, and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses, and the court. It is hoped that the MDL process will result in resolution of all cases, but if it does not, the lawsuits will be remanded back to the court where they originated for trial.

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