Following a Ford F-150 recall announced last week, reports indicate that federal regulators believe Ford Motor Company may have only recalled a fraction of the pickup trucks whose airbags may randomly explode into the faces of drivers.
Ford indicated that approximately 144,000 Ford F-10 pickup trucks from the 2005 and 2006 model year contain a defect that may allow an airbag wire to rub against the horn plate’s metal edges, creating a risk of a short circuit. This could cause the airbags on the pickup trucks to deploy unexpectedly, potentially causing an auto accident for the driver.
According to a report by The New York Times, officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have suggested that the Ford F-150 airbag problems could actually affect 1.3 million trucks.
Since 2009, the NHTSA has been investigating reports of unexpected airbag deployments in the 2005 and 2006 model year F-150s. Agency investigators determined that 1.3 million of the vehicles are potentially affected and in late January the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) sent Ford an 8-page letter calling for all of the vehicles to be recalled.
“To date, ODI has counted a total of 269 inadvertent driver’s side airbag deployments in the base subject vehicle population, which translates to approximately 20 incidents for every 100,000 vehicles,” the NHTSA’s letter to Ford reads. The letter accuses Ford of low-balling the number of vehicles affected and of attempting to avoid a recall by classifying the problem as “wire chaffing” as opposed to defective airbags. Investigators said the F-150s had the most accidental airbag deployments of any model the agency has ever investigated.
Ford has rejected the claims in the NHTSA’s letter, refusing to call the problem a defect, and only recalling one-tenth of the vehicles. The automaker said that the agency’s demands lacked common sense and said that drivers were at little risk because of a safety warning light that comes on before the airbag deploys. In its response letter, the automaker said it was only recalling the trucks with the highest rates of airbag deployments “to avoid a protracted dispute with the agency.”
The NHTSA classifies the incidents as unintentional airbag deployments and a defect, but Ford says that the F-150 airbag problem is better classified as wire chaffing and is not a defect because the driver is warned before the incident occurs.
The Ford pickup truck recall affects about 144,000 model year 2005 and 2006 F-150 pick-up trucks sold in the U.S. and Canada. The company said it would notify specific owners who are affected by the recall in early March.
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