Safety alert: 1.2 million Ford F-150s recalled for airbag defect

By law, if a company realizes it has released an unsafe product, it must release a recall to alert the public. Often times, the recalls are small and remain relatively low-profile in the media. However, last week the opposite was true when Ford announced that it was recalling about 1.2 million pickups from its F-Series, the most popular pickup in the country.

The recall involves Ford F-150s in model years 2004, 2005 and 2006, which could have a manufacturing defect that causes the front-seat airbag to inadvertently deploy. So far, there have been at least 269 instances in which the airbag inflated unnecessarily, and at least 98 of the incidents have caused injury. The injuries reported range from permanent vision damage to chipped teeth to neck and back injuries.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this has been the most expansive investigation and recall into inadvertent airbag deployment in history. The investigation began earlier this year after Ford recalled 144,000 of the pickups assembled at a Virginia factory that has since closed.

However, after some pressure from federal safety officials, Ford expanded the recall to include pickups made at its Michigan and Missouri factories as well. In addition, Ford also announced it was recalling its 2006 model Lincoln Mark LT for the same reasons.

In a statement released by Ford, it said that the suspect trucks could have a wire improperly located in the steering wheel which could become chaffed and cause a short circuit. Ford said that when that happens, the warning light indicating that the restraint system needs service should appear. Then, if the pickup is not serviced, the airbag could deploy inadvertently, Ford said.

Most of the incidents have happened just after the pickup was started. However, some have reported the airbag deploying while they were traveling on public roadways.

Overall, the recall is expected to cost Ford about $180 million. However, this cost is small compared to what the company could face in personal injury lawsuits from all of the people who could potentially be hurt or killed by the defective airbags.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Ford expands recall of F-150 pickup truck to about 1.2 million vehicles,” Jerry Hirsch, 4/15/2011.