Recall will be last linked to fire hazard, Ford says

Recall will be last linked to fire hazard, Ford says Texas Instruments says switch was safely designed Neil Roland Automotive News October 14, 2009 - 11:23 am ET
UPDATED: 10/14/09 1:54 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co.'s new recall of vehicles that pose potential fire hazards will be its last because the latest action covers all remaining cars and trucks with cruise-control switches made by Texas Instruments, even if those switches don't pose safety risks, a Ford spokesman said today.
"We did this to reassure customers and make sure there will be no future actions connected to this," spokesman Wes Sherwood said in an interview. "We've gone to extra lengths to include both vehicles with risks and those that don't show risk."
Yesterday, Ford announced a recall of 4.5 million vehicles -- its eighth in the past decade involving cars and trucks with faulty cruise-control deactivation switches.
The recall is the largest in U.S. history and about twice the size of the second-largest U.S. recall, which also involved Ford, according to government figures.
These recalls have affected 14 million vehicles that are on the road, Sherwood said. An additional 2 million of these vehicles have been junked by owners over the years, he said.
Sherwood declined to estimate the costs involved with the Ford recalls or say whether the automaker has sought compensation from Texas Instruments or initiated legal action against them.
Texas Instruments said its switch was safely designed, and denied that it was the cause of Ford's' problems.
"The switch is only one component of Ford's cruise-control deactivation system, and is not the root cause of the fires," TI spokeswoman Kim Morgan said. "The company continues to have confidence in the safe design of the switch itself."
The TI unit that made the switch was acquired by Sensata Technologies in 2006, she said.
Government probe ongoing
The latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation of Ford's problems, which began in June 2008, is ongoing, NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson said today. There were 653 customer complaints about the latest recalled vehicles, including reports of 72 fires, the agency said.
The recall, which is to begin this month, includes 1.1 million Ford Windstar vans from 1995-2003 with safety defects and 3.4 million that have the faulty switches but pose no fire hazard, Sherwood said.
The Texas Instruments switch, which cost about $20, was purchased by Ford from 1992 to 2003, he said.
No management failures
Sherwood declined to say whether any management failures were associated with Ford's decade-long series of recalls.
"There's no link between people associated with the development of this part and where Ford is going today," he said. "We're in a completely different place." Ford has settled "a number of" consumer lawsuits involving the faulty switch, company spokeswoman Marcey Evans said. There are still cases pending, she said.
Evans declined to say how many cases have been filed or how much money Ford has paid to resolve the suits.
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