Ford in Hot Water Over Allegedly Improper Takata Recall Fixes

Feb. 28, 2024
A whistleblower claimed that the automaker loosened its requirements for technicians working on airbag recall fixes, leading to improper repairs.

Ford Motor Co. is having to re-evaluate repairs made for its Takata airbag recalls following accusations that the repairs were not done correctly, if at all, reports Detroit Free Press.

A federal whistleblower complaint claimed that the automaker loosened its requirements for technicians working on airbag recall fixes, allowing techs who usually only perform routine services like oil changes or tire rotations to do the recall work.

Ford has denied this, saying that those changes in requirements only applied to warranty work, not recalls–but to many, recalls count as warranty work, one longtime Ford dealer said. According to the dealer, the guidelines are written so vaguely that it doesn’t differentiate between warranty and recall work. Three dealers from different regions across the U.S. all told the Detroit Free Press that Ford techs consider recall work to fall under warranty jobs.

Following issues with another recall related to faulty door latches, Ford began to reduce reimbursement rates, upsetting many Ford technicians and leading to rushed jobs. After cutting rates for its techs, a backlash was sparked, as displayed by a change.org petition that garnered nearly 4,000 signatures.

According to Ford, any changes they did implement were a result of the NHTSA pressuring them to complete more recall jobs faster. Upon Ford’s initial recall of Takata airbags, dealers across the country became swamped with recall repairs, prompting the company to pull techs from other service departments to complete recall work. 

“They’re not diagnosing a problem, they’re looking to make sure it’s installed correctly,” said Ford spokesman T.R. Reid. “That can be shown with descriptions and graphics so they can identify whether it’s done right.”

However, not everyone shares the belief that airbag repairs are simple. During a 2015 webinar, Stephen Ridella, who at the time was the director of vehicle crashworthiness research at NHTSA, described components of Takata inflators as being “complex and unique,” and that “only someone with specialized training should replace these parts.”

Ford has fined some dealerships thousands of dollars–some fines rising to six figures–in response to the problem, and said it is committed to having the over quarter-million vehicles affected by the issue reinspected.

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