Ford F-150 pickup trucks recalled due to air bag accidental deployment defect – lawsuits to follow?

Wednesday February 23, 2011: Ford Motor Company announced today that, in the face of government pressure to do so, it will recall nearly 150,000 Ford F150 pickup trucks to address a potential problem with air bags that could deploy without warning. The Detroit News first announced the recall: the Detroit News story is available here.

Ford describes the defect as carrying a “relatively low risk.” The effected vehicles are 2005-06 Ford F150 pickup trucks sold in the U.S.A. and Canada. Ford‘s recall however is being done on a smaller scale than the government had requested. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pointing to 77 cases of injury, told Ford in a November 2010 memo that the recall should cover 1.3 million F-150 trucks, model years 2004-2006.

Ford‘s F150 pickup truck is the best selling vehicle in the United States. The government expanded its investigation into air bag problems in January 2010. A spokeswoman for the transportation department said Ford‘s response is under review to see if Ford‘s recall was adequate to address the potential danger the air bag deployment defect can pose. If the government decides Ford‘s recall was too limited in scope, a rare public hearing may be ordered to decide if Ford should be required to do more.

The NHTSA stated in a November 24th memo that it was aware of 238 cases of improper air bag deployment: the memo also noted that Ford made production changes to the 2006 and 2007 models to fix air bag wiring and other issues. In the memo government regulators said Ford did not believe the defect merited stronger action because there was a low number of incidents and reports, owners of F150‘s would get “adequate warning” from the air bag warning light and the reported injuries were not serious in nature.

Wes Sherwood, a spokesman for Ford Motor Company, said the effected F-150 pickups were manufactured between November 2004 and June 2005 at the Norfolk, Virginia Ford plant. Sherwood said that the rates of air bag deployment was much higher for vehicles made at the Virginia plant than the Ford plants in Michigan and Missouri. Ford said that an air bag wire located in the steering wheel was improperly placed so that it could chafe, the bare copper wire would be exposed, and a short circuit might occur that would cause the air bag warning lamp to come on.  Ford said that most of the air bag issues happened within the first few seconds of the vehicle’s ignition being started.  The recall is expected to begin in early March: F150 owners will be instructed to bring their pickup trucks to a Ford dealership for repair.

2004 Ford F150 pickup truck, some of which are subject to a recall for an air bag deployment defect

The apparent design and/or manufacturing defect in the 2004-2005 Ford F-150 pickup included in the recall has the potential to cause serious injury or death, either from injury to a driver due to the unexpected deployment of the air bag itself or because the air bag deploys while the vehicle is traveling at highway speed, causing the driver to lose control of the truck and crash. Injury or death resulting from a defectively designed or defectively manufactured products, or from a product that does not carry adequate warnings, can be addressed through a products liability lawsuit that seeks to hold the product manufacturer responsible for damages the defect has caused. If you have been seriously injured due to a defective product, contact the experienced Houston personal injury attorneys at Smith & Hassler for a free consultation.