Ford’s North American dealers accused of faking recall repairs – report

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Shocking allegations have arisen in the US of Ford dealerships incorrectly installing airbags – or not doing the job at all.

Ford dealerships in the US have been accused of faking the replacement of potentially deadly Takata airbags – or bodging repairs – in a bombshell report from newspaper The Detroit Free Press.

First reported in 2013, the Takata airbag scandal ended up becoming the largest recall in history, with the faulty units installed in an estimated 100 million vehicles worldwide, in models from two dozen car makers.

It’s estimated at least 36 people globally have died from the defective Takata airbags, with a further 350 seriously injured.

The Detroit Free Press alleges some Ford dealerships in the US claimed to have replaced the airbags, but never carried out the work – while others incorrectly installed replacement airbags which may not deploy in a crash – citing “internal company documents, dealership memos, federal regulatory filings, and court papers” in the report.

While Ford confirmed it was investigating approximately 40,000 models for faulty airbag installations – with less than 2 per cent found to have problems so far, from 4400 vehicles already checked – representatives for the Blue Oval nonetheless issued a stern defence in response to the article.

“The Detroit Free Press conflated unrelated programs and information to draw inaccurate conclusions. Our goal is always to do things right for customers in the first place and, when they aren’t, correct them as quickly as possible. That’s what we did with the programs mischaracterised in this story,” the company said in a statement issued to media outlets.

An estimated 700 vehicles may require a fix at the current rate, however Ford is also recalling a further 230 Ranger utes due to the airbag inflator being installed backwards.

Ford has since pointed out that some improperly installed airbags may still work – though not necessarily as intended – and as such they may not pose a danger to occupants.

The Free Press claims Ford has been fining dealerships $US10,000 per violation ($AU15,400), with some racking up fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In one alleged incident cited by the newspaper, a 20-year-old woman lost an eye when the Takata airbag deployed shrapnel in the Mustang she was a passenger in, during an accident at less than 23km/h – with Ford previously fixing the driver’s airbag under the recall, but not the passenger’s.

It’s claimed the US car giant – under pressure from federal watchdog, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration – cleared technicians to help complete the backlog of recalls despite not yet being certified to do the work.

At the current rate, it’s believed 98 per cent of 40,000 selected vehicles that went through the recall pose no danger to occupants and were repaired correctly.

There is no evidence or suggestion that any work performed by Ford’s Australian dealership network under the Takata recall was performed incorrectly.

Ben Zachariah is an experienced writer and motoring journalist from Melbourne, having worked in the automotive industry for more than two decades. Ben began writing professionally more than 15 years ago and was previously an interstate truck driver. He completed his MBA in Finance in early 2021 and is considered an expert on classic car investment.

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