Ford is ponying up some big bucks to settle government allegations that the company putzed around and delayed the recall of almost half a million SUVs last year. The price tag to make it all go away: $17.35 million, the top penalty regulators can impose against automakers.
The fine is connected to the July 2012 recall of about 485,000 Ford Escape SUVs from 2001-2004 model years, which had gas pedals that were sticking and could cause crashes, reports the Associated Press.
As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sees it, Ford knew about the issue all the way back in May of 2011 but didn’t make a move until the agency started poking around in July 2012 following an Escape crash that killed a girl in January of that same year.
By the time the recall was issued, the NHTSA says it had 68 complaints against the Escape, which included 13 crashes, nine injuries and one death.
Once Ford agreed to the recall and handed over information on its Escapes, the NHTSA said it found evidence that Ford was being a slowpoke. Ford was warned the NHTSA would investigate, and the company agreed to pay the fine.
“It is our job to ensure that manufacturers are held accountable to address safety issues promptly and responsively,” NHTSA said. “Recalls are a serious safety matter.”
A Ford spokeswoman said the company faced a tricky situation and that there weren’t a huge number of complaints. Everything got more involved when improper repairs were made to the vehicles. The problem on the older models involved cruise control cables getting snagged on part of the engine, causing gas pedals to stick.
“We are absolutely committed to addressing potential vehicle issues and responding quickly for our customers,” she said, adding that the company agreed to the fine instead of getting into a long fight with the NHTSA.
She also urged Escape owners with the affected vehicles to have their SUVs fixed at a dealer as soon as possible, if they haven’t done so already.
Ford pays top fine to settle gov’t recall spat [Associated Press]