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Ford Undertakes to Replace 1M-Plus Air Bags in Pickup Trucks

According to industry insiders, Ford Motor Company begrudgingly recalled 140,000-plus pickup trucks from its profitable F-Series line this past February after prodding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to do so. The recall was in response to a number of consumer complaints received by the NHTSA concerning defective air bags in the F-150 truck, which is a perennial best seller for the company. Several hundred drivers complained that the air bags were opening suddenly and without reason — frequently upon starting — and resulting in a wide array of injuries. In some cases, motorists broke teeth. In others, they broke arms and elbows.

The NHTSA wanted more, with some of its critics having alleged that it was too soft in the past in dealing with the vehicle defects of other manufacturers. In a public statement issued to Ford focused on the potential for unexpected deployments to cause truck accidents, the agency referred to a “loss of vehicular control posing an unreasonable risk to safety” and pushed for an expanded recall.

Information from many sources indicates that the two sides conducted extensive negotiations for several months, with Ford consistently maintaining that involving more vehicles was not necessary.

Notwithstanding that view, however, the motor giant agreed last week to recall an additional 1.2 million F-150 trucks, which covers every vehicle made in 2004 and 2005, and part of 2006. Following its announcement, its investor shares closed sharply lower. In a press statement, Ford held tight to its earlier line, stating that the bags did not pose an “unreasonable risk” to drivers. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland countered that the company was “taking action to protect consumers.”

Ford has pledged to replace the drivers’-side air bag in all the vehicles, an undertaking it says will begin in May and take less than a half day to complete in most cases.

Related Resource: Reuters, “Ford expands recall to more than 1.4 million F-150s” April 14, 2011