Ford Motor Co. has come to a settlement with US auto safety regulators that will see the company paying a record-setting $17.35 million dollar fine. This is due to the company’s handling of a recall for older Escapes that was issued last year.
The recall issued last summer was for 423,000 vehicles from the 2001 to 2004 model years. It affected Ford Escapes with 3.0 liter V6 engines and speed control which had potential problems with their gas pedals. The pedals could become stuck down even after a driver lifted his foot off the gas causing a crash.
Ford issued the recall after a preliminary investigation was started by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) following the death of a teenage girl in Arizona that January. The NHTSA investigation found evidence that Ford knew about the problem as early as May although they didn’t take action and issue a recall until July.
Not telling the government or consumers about a safety problem is a violation of federal law, although Ford maintains that it broke no laws in the handling of the recall. Despite this, the fine levied against Ford is the maximum penalty allowed.
Ford isn’t the only automaker to find itself at odds with federal regulators recently. Chrysler also fought the government over a request to recall 2.7 million Jeeps for a potential fire risk during rear-end collisions. They maintained that their vehicles were safe and a recall was unwarranted.
Rather than a drawn out court battle, the two parties reached a compromise. Chrysler will be installing trailer-hitch attachments on 1.56 million of its older Jeep Liberty and Jeep Grand Cherokees SUVs.
The heavy fine the NHTSA has levied on Ford can be seen as something of a warning to manufacturers that the federal agency takes safety seriously and will aggressively pursue cases where it sees the potential for harm to consumers.
Nicole Wakelin fell in love with cars as a teenager when she got to go for a ride in a Ferrari. It was red and it was fast and that was all that mattered. Game over. She considers things a bit more carefully now, but still has a weakness for fast, beautiful cars. Nicole also writes for NerdApproved and GeekMom.