An Ohio police department's then-brand-new SUV suddenly caught on fire after its first 12-hour shift.
Ford Motor Company is fighting a lawsuit filed by West Chester Township and the Ohio Township Association Risk Management Authority (OTARMA) following the spontaneous combustion fire of an Explorer Interceptor police SUV last February. The Blue Oval wants the case dismissed, arguing it does not qualify under "Lemon Law" claims. The plaintiffs, however, are not backing down. They still seek at least $48,353 in compensation along with punitive and other damages, according to the Journal-News.
The saga began back in May 2021 when the then-new Explorer Interceptor caught on fire after just completing its first 12-hour shift.
Nothing crazy happened during that shift, as the officer driving the vehicle responded to a local emergency that required him to drive only 65 mph. Upon arrival, he left the vehicle running because the lights were still on. Again, nothing unusual. Two minutes later, someone noticed the Explorer was on fire. The officer tried to use the onboard extinguisher as the "flames were visible under the Explorer and through the Explorer's hood area."
The fire department arrived shortly thereafter and extinguished the fire completely. No one was injured but the SUV only had 150 miles on its odometer. The township and its insurance company later sued Ford and the Lebanon, Ohio dealership that sold them the vehicle. Two weeks ago, the pair amended their lawsuit by adding another two defendants and another Lemon Law claim.
"After being notified of the Explorer's nonconformity, defendant Ford took no action to repair, replace, or return and refund the full purchase price of the Explorer," the suit states. Ford is having none of it. The automaker has now responded and denies any wrongdoing. Its lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing the vehicle does not technically fall under Lemon Law status because that law only covers passenger cars and noncommercial motor vehicles.
Here's what Ford claims: "The subject vehicle is not a motor vehicle under Ohio law and plaintiffs cannot asset a lemon law claim for alleged defects in the subject vehicle."
Ford also argues it was impossible for them to repair the vehicle in question because it was only made aware of the fire three months after it happened. The insurance company paid the township for the totaled vehicle but West Chester still had to pay the $500 deductible. Their lawsuit demands "actual, compensatory, exemplary, punitive and other damages," as well as for Ford to stop building other "defective" vehicles.
For now, the case remains ongoing but this is not the first time there's been controversy surrounding the Explorer Interceptor. A few years ago, several police departments began complaining and some sued over alleged exhaust leaks, aka carbon monoxide, and an odor that made some officers sick.
The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) closed that six-year investigation last January into 1.47 million examples of the 2011-2017 Ford Explorer. No recalls were issued.
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