Ford Customers Holding the Key, Waiting for the Switch

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Pittsburgh, PAOne of the problems with recalls that are continually expanded, like the recent Ford cruise control recalls, is that customers are never entirely sure where their product stands on the recall list. It also means that customers who experience problems with units that have not yet been recalled have difficulty proving that their problem is a result of the company's negligence.

On June 12, 2007 at 3:20 AM, Joe Szymborski's Ford F-150 caught on fire. He had driven it earlier that evening and parked it out on the street. The fire was severe enough that the truck was a write off. "The inside of the engine was gutted," Szymborski says. "It was a total loss."

Unfortunately for Joe, his F-150 was not part of Ford's initial recall and still hadn't been recalled when the fire occurred. Ford says that the fire, and any costs associated with the fire, is not their problem. "I had personal things in the truck," Szymborski says. "I had GPS, personal CDs and other things. But after the insurance paid for the rest of the truck, there was no money left over. It took Ford six months to respond to me and they pretty much blew me off."

Ford Car FireFord customers are concerned that just because their vehicle has not been recalled yet does not mean they will not have a problem in the future. After all, Ford has announced repeated recalls over the past few years related to cruise control fire problems. Each recall adds more Ford vehicles to the list of those that has the defective cruise control switches. "I guess Ford has not yet solved the problem," Szymborski says. "I want to know what's wrong with these vehicles. If it isn't the cruise control switch, then what is it?"

Vehicle fires can be deadly events. Not all fires occur by the side of the road, with passengers safely away from the vehicle. Many fires related to recalled Ford vehicles have started in garages attached to homes and have caused serious property damage. Some Ford customers allege that fires in their homes—fires that resulted in the death of family members—were started by faulty cruise control deactivation switches.

Compounding the situation is Ford's inability to make proper replacement parts available to customers who have defective cruise control switches. Despite having announced the recall in August and promising that replacement parts would be available in August, over a million vehicles are still on the road without proper switches.

As for Szymborski, he is left wondering why his vehicle caught on fire in the middle of the night and if his F-150 will ever be recalled. "It wasn't vandalism," Szymborski says. "The police checked the security camera on the street. It's motion sensitive, so it would have caught vandals setting fire to the truck. It came on when a ball of flame burst through the hood of the truck."

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