The Blue Oval has been hiding "the deadly nature of its roof design," say legal representatives.
A class action lawsuit brought on by owners of Ford Super Duty trucks is accusing the automaker of fraudulent concealment, among other things, pertaining to the crash integrity of their vehicles. Attorneys from Hagens Berman say they have proof that Ford has used increasingly weaker steel and materials in the roof of Super Duty trucks built between 1999 and 2016.
"When the public looks at Ford's history of subtle, yet impactful and plentiful design choices over the decades it has made these trucks, a single storyline is clear: Ford has repeatedly chosen to degrade the structural capacity and therefore safety of its trucks, again and again, for sake of cost savings," said Steve Berman, co-founder and managing partner at Hagens Berman.
He added, "A read of Ford's choices is a redundant tale of deletions and downgauge of steel, reducing the thickness of essential components of the truck cab."
The amended class action complaint alleges that Ford was aware of the defect before these vehicles went to market. This, says the document, is backed up by the fact that the automaker marketed these vehicles as both safe and tough - qualities that appealed to unassuming buyers.
In 1996, Ford is said to have approved the replacement of Boron steel with lesser steel in the B pillars. This allegedly saved $20.86 per vehicle and reduced tooling costs by $1,033,800.97. Boron steel is reportedly four to five times stronger than the steel it was replaced with.
Additionally, the complaint states that Ford also removed strengthening components from around the windshield, and also used weaker steel around the A-Pillar. In September 1998, the 2.4 mm A-Pillar was reduced to 2.35 mm (to save $0.70 per vehicle). This was further downgauged to 2.2 mm in March 1999, for a saving of $1.72 per vehicle.
"Ford's rejection of its own tests and efforts to increase profits, as outlined above by purposefully degrading the strength of the roof both pre- and post-production of the first Roof-Crush Risk Vehicles, squarely evidence Ford's knowledge that the Roof-Crush Risk Vehicles had an unsafe and dangerous design from before the sale of the first 1999 model year SuperDuty," reads an excerpt from the document.
The complaint follows yet another lawsuit, where Ford was ordered to pay $1.7 billion in damages relating to a similar case. In 2014, Georgia couple Melvin and Voncile Hill were traveling in their 2002 F-250 when it rolled over, killing them both in the accident. At the time, the automaker was expected to appeal the judgment. While it seems Ford hasn't been successful in getting a retrial, the initial damages may be reduced.
In 2015, the Dearborn-based brand was told to fork over $152 million to Travaris Smith, who was involved in an equally serious collision. Smith, who was 24 years old at the time, was sitting in the passenger seat of a 1998 Explorer when it rolled over, severing his spinal cord. A jury not only found that the vehicle didn't meet Ford's standards, but that the company also attempted to hide the defect.
The amended class action complaint hopes to seek repayment for owners and lessees, which includes covering the loss of vehicle value and any additional costs. Aside from the fraudulent concealment allegations, the lawsuit also alleges that Ford's actions are a violation not only of the warranty but consumer-rights laws too.
"Ford has clearly failed its customers and has failed the public in living up to the basic level of responsibility that a company must adhere to when selling products to the public," added Berman.
Elsewhere, Ford is currently fighting Shelby Mustang GT350 owners in court, who allege that their muscle cars aren't all they're cracked up to be.