In response to a ConsumerAffairs.com series, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is calling on Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to get fire-prone vehicles off the road.
"It's unacceptable that these dangerous cars remain on the road and it's obvious that NHTSA needs to do more and work with Ford to fully fix this problem," Kerry, who sits on the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over NHTSA, wrote in an e-mail.
In a series of stories, ConsumerAffairs.com has detailed the repeated government recalls of Ford vehicles in response to a rash of fires in Ford cars, trucks and vans.
After each recall, NHTSA and Ford representatives cheer "mission accomplished" while hundreds of consumers continue to file complaints with ConsumerAffairs.com
"NHTSA can try to declare this issue solved as many times as they want, but it doesn't change the fact that there's a lack of resources and will to deal with serious consumer issues like this one," Kerry wrote. "Consumers need more than a passive '9 to 5' approach from the very agency that is supposed to keep them safe."
Since 1999 Ford and NHTSA have recalled more than a dozen models totalling 10.5 million vehicles.
The problem is thought to be centered in a cruise control switch which can short-circuit when it comes in contact with engine fluids. The switch is always powered, which explains why many of the complaints are from consumers whose vehicles catch fire in their driveway or garage. The explosive fires often spread to nearby vehicles and buildings.
"On Oct. 30, 2004, my 2002 Crown Victoria caught fire and burned itself, my husband's truck (parked behind it) and our home to the ground," wrote Stacey of Martin, Ga.
Most consumers are left with nothing but ashes and many say Ford won't even return phone calls, let alone make restitution.
But Kerry, who responded quickly despite a Congressional recess, vowed to look closer into NHTSA'a involvement.
"I'll work with my colleagues to push NHTSA to aggressively tackle this problem until an appropriate standard of safety on our roads is achieved," Kerry wrote.
Other senators who sit on the Senate Surface Transportation subcommittee with Kerry did not respond to requests for comment. Those not responding include the committee's chairman, Frank Lautenberg, (D-N.J.) as well as members Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), ranking member Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
Representatives from the House Transpotation Committee, which has NHTSA jurisdiction on the House side, also failed to respond to a request for comment on what they plan to do to resolve the problem and protect consumers from similar incidents.
The latest recall will begin on August 13. Vehicle owners will have the cruise control switch, also called the speed control switch, deactivated as an interim repair. When new parts are available, which is expected in October.
Models recalled in the latest round-up include:
- Bronco, 1993
- Crown Victoria, 1992-1998
- E150, 1992-1993 and 1997-2002
- E250, 1992 -1993 and 1997-2003
- E450, 2003
- Explorer, 1991-2001
- Explorer Sport, 2001-2002
- Explorer Sport Trac, 2002-2002
- F150 Lightening, 2003-2004
- F150, 1993
- F250, 1993
- F350, 1003
- F450m 1995-2002
- F53 Motor Home, 1995-2002
- Ranger, 1995-2002
- Taurus, 1993-1995
- Lincoln Mark VII, 1993-1998
- Lincoln Town Car, 1992-1998
- Mercury Capri, 1994
- Mercury Grand Marquis, 1992-1998
- Mercury Mountaineer, 1999-2001
The long-running series of destructive fires -- and Ford's stonewalling of its customers -- has given the company a black eye as it struggles to remain in business.
No one really knows how much property damage, catastrophic financial loss and personal deaths and injuries have been caused by the fires.
On Friday, April 6, 2007, at around 850 in the evening, my 18-year-old daughter had gotten into our 1994 Ford Explorer, cranked it up, turned on the heater, backed up in the driveway, and called my wife complaining about smoke coming out of the air conditioning vents, 1994 Ford Explorer owner Shelton of Parrish, Fla., wrote ConsumerAffairs.com.
"She said something was glowing from under the right front of the car. She got out of the car while it was starting to catch fire, he wrote.
After the local fire department extinguished the blaze, the 1994 Ford Explorer was a complete loss, with damage to the driveway as well.
Ford told Shelton in a letter that there was nothing the company could or would do beyond the warranty period, according to a copy of the letter provided by Shelton:
Our records indicate that you contacted the Ford Customer Relationship Center and our Customer Care Representative advised you that there is no assistance beyond warranty and there is no recall pertaining to the fire.
At this time we are unable to provide you with an alternate response. If any additional information regarding this matter should become available in the future, please let us know.
Shelton said he is not a greedy man. He was only asking Ford for the value of his 1994 Ford Explorer and damages to the driveway.
"My daughter narrowly escaped the fire," he wrote. But he considers himself lucky. "If she had been driving down the road minutes later, she would have died as a result of the fire."
After more than 150 reports to ConsumerAffairs.com of Ford trucks catching on fire for no apparent reason, many readers and owners of the Ford trucks have adopted a new self-defense tactic: they no longer park the vehicles near their house or in their garage.
Finally, in Flower Mound, Texas at 12:00am June 13, 2007 Charlene was woken up by a strange sound and a glow in my home. I looked out the front door to see what it was. I was not prepared for the inferno of fire that had in gulfed my 2000 Ford Expedition in my driveway, she said.
I then woke my husband by screaming that we had to get our 3 year old daughter from upstairs and get out of the house because the flames were reaching our eaves of the house.
Thank God for the Flower Mound Fire Department, Charlene said.