While Ford finally admitted that the cruise control wiring in the F150, amongst others, holds a serious risk of catching fire, it comes too late for some families.
Ford refuses the following families compensation saying that, due to the extent of the fire, it cannot be determined what exactly caused the damage. Talk about a Catch-22!
Hattiesburg, MS Jerri Pittman and husband Ronnie were enjoying a quiet night in the country, relaxing in bed. Jerri was scanning the newspaper, catching up on the day's events, when she heard an explosion. "We live near a military facility, so I didn't think anything of it," she says, calmly recalling what would become a harrowing ordeal. Another bang, this time louder, let her know they were in danger. "The second one was too close. I looked out my window and our truck was on fire. It scared me... [the Ford F150] had two full tanks of gas."
In a brave attempt to save their home, the Pittman's moved quickly to suppress the fire. "I'm not sure how we did it, but we moved our other two vehicles and my husband put the fire out with a garden hose." But it was too late to save the truck. "By this time the truck was pretty much gone," Jerri adds.
Naturally, Jerri and Ronnie want Ford to be held responsible. Despite their determination - and the clear evidence that Ford's cruise control wiring is dangerously faulty - the rural couple can't get any results. "We called Ford and got the obligatory "sorry" letter. I got in touch with the government. I e-mailed back and forth with a lady there for a few months." The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), asked for pictures of the now-destroyed vehicle, but they also made an odd request. "[The NTHSA] wanted the parts," says Jerri, "but they were gone."
The parts, of course, were destroyed in the fire. "That is the last I heard - that was July, 2005... Now, Ford won't help us at all."
Somerset, KY: Dealing with Ford has also been frustrating and futile for Debra and Jimmy Cook. Their 1997 Ford F150 caught fire and was virtually destroyed in January, 2005.
"I was sitting outside my friend's house and happened to pass by the window, looked outside, and the front end of Jimmy's truck was going up in flames," says Debra. "My stepson called the fire department but by the time they got there — 20 minutes later — the fire was coming up from under the hood."
The fire department came as fast as they could, (they know how dangerous a burning car can be with a tank of gas) but it took some time to arrive at this rural residence. "Flames were still coming up from the hood, the windshield had broken with the intense heat and the headliner had melted and dripped down onto the seats."
Debra phoned Ford and got the run-around. "We tried to talk to Ford and ask for some compensation because we didn't have full coverage insurance on the truck," says Debra. "They recognized the problem and then put out the recall but in the meantime there had been numerous incidents, similar to ours, on the national news." Debra and Jimmy kept watching and waiting for a recall. "We phoned Ford many times and wrote several letters. Every time we called or wrote, there was still no recall on this particular truck."
The Cook's vehicle was finally recalled in October, 2005, nine months after it caught fire.
Debra responded to Ford's recall letter. "At that time they told me I would have to contact the local dealership and have them look at the truck," she says. By now, the truck wasn't even on the premises; it had been hauled off to the junkyard. "When I talked to someone in the service department at Alton Blakley Ford Dealership, he knew what had happened. He didn't have to see the car and we had the pictures to prove it," says Debra. Ford wanted the photographs sent to them, specifically of the area where the fire apparently started, i.e. the master cylinder.
Now here is the Catch-22: Ford said it was burned to the point that they couldn't determine where the fire started!
"When I first conversed with Mike Peterson at Ford's consumer affairs, he asked what it would take to satisfy us. I told him that he had a blue book price and that is what Ford owes us, what the truck is worth. He had to meet with his people and get back to me," says Debra. The letter from Ford, dated October 25, 2005, states that, "Due to extensive amount of damage to the vehicle, we were unable to verify the manufacturer's defect."
After this pathetic response from Ford, the Cook's notified the Attorney General in November, 2005. The Attorney General received the evidence: photographs and all correspondence the Cook's had received from Ford. "They [Attorney General's Office] notified Ford, asking them to come to some kind of settlement with us," says Debra. Ford's response was the same again: they had not determined where the fire actually started.
Then the Attorney General asked the Cook's if they were satisfied with Ford's response. The answer: an emphatic NO. "Ford is such a large company, nobody will challenge it, but we aren't backing down," says Debra Cook.
Even with the dangers posed to drivers, it took until September, 2005, before [Ford expanded its recall notice] to include the Pittmans' truck. Ford's recall notice for faulty cruise control wiring includes vehicles equipped with factory-installed speed control:
• 1994-2002 Ford F-150s
• 1997-2002 Ford Expeditions
• 1998-2002 Lincoln Navigators
• 1994-1996 Ford Broncos
If you own any of these vehicles, visit your Ford dealership as soon as possible. If you've been injured or lost property because of the faulty wiring, Ford may be held responsible for your losses.
Here's a link to [Ford's] website.
Here's a related article with a tragic story: [CNN]
LAWSUITS NEWS & LEGAL INFORMATION
Ford admission of cruise control fire danger too late
|. By Jane Mundy|
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