Back in May 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) started investigating cases of rear axles breaking in Ford Windstars after receiving over 200 hundred initial complaints from owners; the axles often snap with little to no warning to drivers. Despite the complaints and investigation, Ford resisted the recall stating that the Windstar was a front-wheel-drive vehicle and the rear-axle breaks were not a safety problem contending the driver would still retain control of the vehicle. Ford’s delay caused one Massachusetts man to lose his life; his recall notice arrived in the mail one week after his fatal accident.
More than three months later, Ford announced a recall of its 1998 – 2003 Windstars, but only for the minivans sold in "Salt Belt" states where road salt could accelerate corrosion on the rear axle and cause the axle to break. This recall was expanded in November 2010 to include vehicles sold in Utah. Then, a second corrosion-related recall was issued in January 2011 for the Salt-Belt states and involved a failure of the front lower control arm which could result in the loss of steering.
Last week, the Windstar recall was expanded to include 27,000 Windstars sold in Virginia and includes the control-arm recall. Ford told the NHTSA that the recall is not the result of a large number of complaints, but is to confirm its commitment to safety. Letters will be mailed to Virginia Windstar owners starting the week of June 18. The company is not planning to expand the recall further.
If auto manufacturers are responsible for the safety of the products they sell and defective and dangerous vehicles place drivers, passengers and pedestrians at risk for serious injury or death, then why do these manufacturers continue to cut corners? While the most recent recall wasn’t spurred from someone’s death, these recalls raise the question, how safe are Windstars in other parts of the country? Why is Ford continuing to issue “regional” recalls? Haven’t they learned by now that this is not a regional problem? Vehicles often change owners and/or move from one area to another, so do regional recalls make sense? Is Ford’s priority on its bottom line or the safety of consumers?
When will auto manufacturers realize that a defective vehicle is a danger to everyone? They owe it to consumer to take responsibility by issuing timely recalls. Equally important is that vehicle owners respond to the recalls by ensuring their vehicle is repaired. It is alarming the number of consumers who still ignore recall notices, even though the free repairs can rectify design flaws and save lives. Whether procrastination, indifference, or plain oversight, safety and consumer experts say failure to act on a recall leaves drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at risk. Consumers should act responsibly for their own safety and the safety of others. Act responsibly by reporting problems to a dealer or manufacturer immediately; help manufacturers and the NHTSA notify the public and initiate recalls, when necessary.
The most effective means to receive timely recall notices is to sign up online for automatic recall notifications from the NHTSA at safercar.gov. It is equally important to periodically check for vehicle recalls at www.nhtsa.gov or autorecalls.org. A simple online check for open recalls is all it takes to help make our roads safer.
If you own a vehicle with a recall, you have an obligation to have the vehicle repaired; you are liable for any problems that could have been prevented had the repair/replacement had been performed. The recalls can save your life and others; choosing to ignore auto recalls threatens the safety of consumers everywhere. Don’t take safety for granted.
Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.