Ford sued, accused of hiding fuel tank defect

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Two 2008 F Series pickups

Two 2008 F Series pickups. Image: CC-BY-Carlmages/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Ford Motor Company is being sued over allegations that it sold pickups and full-size vans with faulty fuel tank linings. The lining could corrode with time and clog the fuel system. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in a New Jersey federal court, further contends that Ford knew about the issue and kept quiet about it to avoid an expensive recall.

Suit filed by construction company

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of New Jersey-based Coba Landscaping and Construction Inc. and its parent company, Galo Coba. It claims Ford F Series pickups and E series full-size vans sold from 1999 to 2008 were assembled using fuel tanks that had faulty linings. Over time, the corroded lining could “separate and flake off,” clogging fuel lines and filters with particles. That could possibly cause the engine to kick or stall.

Seeking class-action status

According to Reuters, the plaintiff is seeking class-action status on behalf of the “hundreds, if not thousands” of affected owners. Thousands seems more likely. The Ford F Series pickup was the best-selling truck in the nation between 1999 and 2008.

[Why buy a new car? Warranties!]

Ford knew of issue, suit says

According to the filing, Ford knew about the fuel tank issue but never officially dealt with it. Allegedly, a covert service bulletin was sent to Ford dealerships, alerting them to the issue. The public, however, was never informed. Ford allegedly kept the information “in house” to avoid an expensive recall.

Triple damages asked for

The suit contends that Ford committed fraud, breach of warranty and unjust enrichment. Although a precise figure has yet to be announced, Coba is asking for triple damages as well as punitive compensation.

According to Reuters, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans Zwiebel refused to comment on the suit.

Earlier fuel tank recall

Some 1999-2008 F Series trucks and E Series vans were included in an August 2011 recall over fuel tank issues. However, that recall dealt with the straps that hold the tank in place corroding in cold areas where the roads are heavily salted.

Could cost Ford big

If the court sides with the plaintiff in the case, on top of any damages awarded, Ford will likely be probed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency could possibly force Ford to issue a recall. The automaker would have gotten off much more cheaply if it had been forthcoming when it first learned of the issue. Not to mention avoided the hit to its reputation.


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