More Fords may have
ignition fire problems


May 2, 1996
Web posted at: 11:50 p.m. EDT

DETROIT, Michigan (CNN) -- Last week, Ford Motor Co. announced that it was recalling 8.7 million vehicles to fix ignition switches that could cause a car or truck to catch fire at any time. This week, information has surfaced that indicates the company might have done well to include several thousand more in that recall.

Econoline vans and Aerostar minivans were not included in last week's ignition switch recall. But according to a published report in USA Today Thursday, which quoted an internal Ford memo, some of those vehicles might be even more fire-prone than the ones that were recalled.


Safety consultant Ralph Hoar, who is consulting plaintiffs in class-action suits against Ford, is familiar with the memo. He says it shows that Ford clearly knew of the problem with pre-1988 models, which preceded changes in the manufacturing process. And, he says, the memo indicates that Ford executives knew of the problems before they decided to recall the vehicles.

Documents Ford gave to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that Ford tested all its vehicles with the same kind of ignition switch, from model year 1984 through 1993. It didn't recall any vehicles made before 1988, blaming the switch fires to a bad design that was changed in May 1987.

Ford Econoline vans and Aerostar minivans that fell under the cut-off date, however, were excluded -- even though, according to the documents, 1986 Aerostar minivans had the second-highest rate of ignition switch fires of any Ford truck. They were also more likely to catch fire than any other Ford truck ever recalled except for the 1988 Bronco.

The 1986 and '87 Econolines also catch fire at about twice the rate of some recalled pickups, according to the Ford documents.

Ford vans

But Ford spokeswoman Francine Romine said the memo USA Today refers to is outdated, a three-year-old preliminary draft that doesn't reflect any testing or analysis Ford has conducted in the past three years. "The models and vehicle lines we recalled last week are the appropriate ones. We believe we have the appropriate population, that the vehicles Ford is now recalling are the right ones," she said.

Still, Hoar believes Ford is putting thousands of drivers at risk. "I think Ford is just reluctant to acknowledge that it has made such a huge mistake," he said. "The faster they acknowledge it, and the faster they ... replace these switches, the sooner we'll get to the end of all this," he said.

The NHTSA has applauded Ford for recalling its vehicles to repair them. However, the agency has not closed its investigation. "We are continuing to ask Ford questions abut the incidents of fire in vehicles that were not recalled," said spokesman Tim Hurd.

The switch was redesigned in 1992 to fix the problem. But Ford insists the old ones were relatively safe, despite the more than 800 fires attributed to them.

Correspondent Ed Garsten contributed to this report.

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