Monday, February 20, 2012

Ford recall policies

I’ve never really had a problem with car recalls before Ford. My 2000 Ford Focus, however, has had around a dozen different safety recalls. Each one is a scheduling hassle, plus time to take the car to the dealer and get a ride home, and then a ride and time to pick the car back up. It would be bad enough if that were all.

Two recalls ago, the Ford dealer’s mechanic drove my car into a light pole in their parking lot. And lied about it.

One recall ago, the Ford dealer’s mechanic forgot to put the fuel evap line back in place, rigged it temporarily with a couple of zip ties, and it’s now costing me hundreds of dollars to fix.

And on the current recall, the Ford dealer claims there is no recall. The NHTSA-ordered recall 02V288000 (Ford’s recall number is 02S42) is for a battery cable that short-circuits, melts the insulation of nearby wires, melts the plastic case around the battery, and then starts a fire in the engine compartment. My engine compartment. I haven’t had a fire yet, but I’ve had all the other problems. Hard starts, check engine lights, dead batteries, melted insulation, melted plastic. Yet Ford claims that the recall never happened. When pressed, Ford says that the recall happened, but my car’s VIN wasn’t included in the recall. And since my VIN wasn’t included in the recall, there’s nothing they can do. Oddly, I get the same exact response pattern from two separate Ford dealers (Sentry Ford and Stoneham Ford): first, the recall never happened; second, my VIN wasn’t included in the recall. And I get the same exact response pattern from Ford’s warranty center, and from Ford’s customer relationship center. Though one person in Ford’s warranty center also (falsely) tells me that the reason my VIN wasn’t included in the recall is that the recall only applied to cars made in a different factory than the one that made my car.

Until I point out that I have the letter from Ford about this recall specifically for my VIN. And then, like magic, the recall did happen and my car’s VIN was included. But a dealer (Otis Ford) told Ford that they did some repair to this car related to this recall back in 2003, so a supervisor in Ford’s customer relationship center says that Ford’s policy in those circumstances is to tell the customer that their VIN was not included in the recall.

In other words, Ford lies to their customers. By policy.

I think Ford shouldn’t lie to their customers. Especially not as a policy, and certainly not about safety recalls that involve potential engine compartment fires.

It does explain why a lot of Ford Focus owners have filed formal complaints with NHTSA about this recall. Some say that Ford attempted to repair their car, but that the repair didn’t solve the problem. Many say that Ford told them their VIN wasn’t included in the recall, even though they had the precise problems described in the recall notice. And a really disturbing number of those complaints involved engine compartment fires caused by Ford’s defective battery cable.

When I pointed this out to Ford’s customer relationship center, the first Ford representative told me to sue Ford Motor Company, and the supervisor told me to sue Otis Ford (the dealership). That sort of helpful advice must be why the second person got promoted to supervisor.

And when I told Ford that I was having the car repaired by an independent repair shop that was willing to do the work that Ford’s dealers wouldn’t do to reduce the risk of an engine compartment fire, Ford told me in the strongest possible terms that they wouldn’t stand behind the work of the independent repair shop. Which I found odd, since they had just finished telling me that they wouldn’t stand behind the work of their own dealers, or their own recall notice, or their own parts.

By the way, does anyone want to buy a Ford Focus? It smells like marshmallows. And cynicism.

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