At Ford, why wasn't safety Job 1?
provided by Environmental Working Group
Like other car companies, Ford has consistently fought mandatory increases in fuel economy for SUVs and other vehicles by invoking fears that higher mileage requirements would result in smaller, more dangerous vehicles. Safety has been used to beat back fuel efficiency regulations. But Ford's own internal documents and a series of recent court cases reveal a company that is shockingly indifferent to safety risks in the very class of gas-guzzling vehicles it most wants to shield from increases in fuel economy standards SUVs.
An Environmental Working Group (EWG) review (now available at www.ewg.org) reveals that Ford engineers knew in 1982 that the original sport utility vehicle, the Bronco II, was prone to roll over during routine safety tests. With modest stability changes that did not significantly reduce rollover potential, the Bronco II was renamed the Explorer in 1990.
The EWG investigation, SUVs: Suddenly Upside Down Vehicles, shows that the Bronco II was so unstable that Ford's engineers cancelled J-turn test drives out of fear for the safety of Ford's professional test drivers. Ford executives ignored their company engineers' urgings that they widen the vehicle's wheel track to make it safer and rushed the Bronco II into production anyway. The company legal office gathered documents on stability tests before the first Bronco II rolled off the assembly line, only to mysteriously lose half of them. Ford then paid a former company engineer $5 million to lie about what the company knew of about rollover dangers in 30 lawsuits brought against Ford over eight years.
Decades later, a document trail is haunting Ford in court. In 2001, a federal judge in Goff v. Ford concluded that Ford had engaged in a conspiracy to commit fraud. In a 1999 decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals referred to Ford's behavior in launching the dangerous and defective Bronco II as highly reprehensible and the crassest form of corporate indifference to safety... of the consumer.
An EWG review of internal Ford Motor Company documents obtained in a series of SUV rollover cases against Ford shows that:
Ford spent the last 20 years saying it couldn't make higher mileage SUVs because doing so would endanger customers. These documents reveal a shocking degree of indifference to the safety of people who bought the Bronco II, said Environmental Working Group General Counsel Heather White. It's time for Ford to stopping deceiving its customers and the American public, and instead focus on building SUVs that are fuel efficient and safe.