Ford Faces Delays in Repairing Cruise Control Fire Hazard

Ford Faces Delays in Repairing Cruise Control Fire Hazard
Image: Ford

More than 1.8 million Ford Motor Co. cars and trucks remain at risk of erupting into flames 5 months after the automaker recalled an additional 3.6 million vehicles because of a fire hazard in the cruise control system.

Ford initially promised parts would be available for the massive recall to repair the vehicles by October 2007. The automaker then said the parts will not be available until later in 2007.

When Ford first announced the delay because of a parts shortage, the automaker said there have been no supply problems for parts for SUVs. That is no longer true.

The badly needed parts are still in short supply and discouraging some Ford truck owners from responding to the recall. Because Ford dealers are unable to accomplish the required repairs, as a temporary fix they disconnect the cruise control system when consumers respond to their notice from Ford.

A Ford spokesman insists the automaker is doing all it can to complete the fire hazard recall.

"This was a large recall, and we're working with the supplier to meet the volume challenge as soon as possible," said Ford spokesman Dan Jarvis.

The continuing parts delay adds to mounting confusion in an already troubling situation for many Ford consumers faced with the cruise control recall. The consequences are sometimes devastating. An Oregon family lost their truck and almost lost their home to a fire that originated in their Ford truck.

"Friday January 11, 2008 my husband came home from work at 5:30 and parked his 2001 F-150 Supercrew in the driveway," they wrote. Just 45 minutes later the truck was "fully engulfed in flames."

"Our garage door and siding on the front of our house was damaged but not destroyed. The truck on the other hand is a total loss," the wife said.

The Oregon truck was part of the Ford recall, according to the owner.

"When we got the letter regarding the recall we called Ford and they said that they didn't have the part that was required to fix it but that since our cruise control wasn't working (It had stopped working about 2 months before the fire) it must already be disconnected and we should be fine," said the truck owner, who asked not to be publicly identified.

The truck owner reports that Ford told them "fires are rare so I wouldn't worry. From the sounds of all these stories they are not as rare as they would like the consumer to believe."

The struggling automaker continues to insist the company is responding adequately in an effort to notify Ford customers to return their vehicles to a Ford dealership for repair of the fire hazard.

"We have sent multiple mailings to customers, based on current vehicle registrations, asking them to bring in vehicles. I don't have an exact figure, but about half of the total have done so to date. We have one of the highest return rates in the industry, based on update registration info, and sending multiple mailings," Ford spokesman Jarvis said.

Some Ford dealers now require customers who decline to disconnect the cruise control system to sign a waiver of liability.

A Florida woman with a Ford Econoline Van equipped with hand controls for a wheel chair faced the demand that she sign the waiver. "I need my cruise control if I have to travel any amount of distance," she wrote.

"It has been since September 7 I have been waiting to get my van fixed," said this Ford owner. "I tried to get Ford to fix the problem but they just want to plug it back in and if I sign the waiver and something happens they will no longer be responsible for any damages," she said.

A Ford Explorer owner in Bainbridge Island, Washington is not satisfied with the automaker's explanation.

"They say the part is back ordered. I also understand that this part was originally found unsafe back in 2005 although I was only notified in August 2007," he said.

In San Jose, California another Ford owner encountered similar treatment.

"My local Ford dealer disconnected my cruise control in November 2007, saying that it was required if I was to get the defective part replaced but he could not replace the part because of a backlog on the part and that it would take one month," the owner wrote.

"Now it's been over 2 months and my dealer has no estimate on a replacement part. The dealer said that I could reconnect the cruise control but if the car caught on fire it would be my problem," he said.

Back in Bainbridge Island, Washington that explanation has a hollow ring. "I would like someone to put a fire under them, because they are not motivated to replace the item once they've disconnected it," the Explorer owner concluded.