This week, automobile customers in 14 states filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. The suit alleges that a potentially unsafe defect in Ford cars should have been remedied 5 years earlier than it was. According to the suit, though Ford only began fixing the problem in U.S. cars in 2010, it did so in Europe much earlier. And, allege the plaintiffs, Ford concealed the risks of the problem from its customers.
“Ford could have equipped the Ford vehicles with a fail-safe,” the suit asserts. “Ford began installing the brake-over-accelerator, one type of driver-controlled fail-safe, in certain Ford vehicles that it manufactured in the European market as far back as 2005. Other manufacturers were already equipping their vehicles with brake-over-accelerator systems before 2002. Yet, despite its knowledge of the problem and the availability of this remedy, Ford failed to take any steps to resolve this problem in North America.”
Safety experts have already weighed in on the issue: This problem—unintended acceleration—is generally caused by driver error. But in cars with electronic throttle control, the problem is exacerbated. Still, Ford only began paying attention to the issue in America after it was slapped with record fines and mandatory recalls in 2009 and 2010.
In a public statement, Ford has only said that, all along—in the U.S.—it complied with the directives of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. The automaker has yet to comment on its operations in Europe.
But one plaintiffs’ expert has already noted that, as recently as 2011, a judge in another trial noted that Ford misled the court in a similar context. In that case, the Detroit-based company claimed that it did not know of any cause of unintended acceleration beyond driver error—while it was actually concealing years of testing that showed that certain electronic systems built-in to cars could be a cause.