MAINE SETTLES CASE AGAINST FORD OVER TIRE SAFETY AND ADVERTISING ISSUES
December 24, 2002
DECEMBER 23, 2002
CARLOS DIAZ, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Attorney General Steven Rowe today announced that Maine has joined 52 other jurisdictions in settling with Ford Motor Company to resolve allegations of deceptive trade practices relating to the sales and advertising of Ford sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
The states alleged that Ford continued to use Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT tires even after the company knew the tires had an unacceptably high failure rate and that using the tires made Ford SUVs more likely to roll over. The states also alleged that Ford advertising exaggerated the safe loading capacity and maneuverability of Ford SUVs, and that Ford deceptively advertised aftermarket tires as original equipment tires. Ford denied any wrongdoing.
The states will use $30 million from the Ford settlement to mount a nationwide public service consumer education campaign on SUV safety. Also, each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands will receive a payment of $300,000. The remainder will be used to pay the costs of the states' investigation. Ford already has spent approximately $2 billion to replace tires in the 53 jurisdictions. The settlement does not preclude any individual's right to assert legal claims against Ford.
Last year, Maine joined other states in settling claims against Bridgestone/Firestone related to the advertising and sale of tires that had high rates of tread separations. That settlement resulted in $275,000 for Maine's General Fund. Details of that settlement can be found at http://www.maine.gov/ag/pr/oct_nov2001/110801.html.
Assistant Attorney General Carlos Diaz, who handled the cases for Maine, said, "The attorneys general are telling manufacturers that ignoring or glossing over consumer safety problems is not worth the cost."
Other Ford Settlement Provisions:
- The settlement prohibits Ford from making misrepresentations about the cargo capacity, safety and handling characteristics of their SUVs, or the purpose of any recall or recommended inspection. This includes prohibiting Ford from using the term "car-like" in advertising with respect to the steering and handling of its SUVs.
- The company must have reliable scientific evidence to substantiate any representations about vehicle safety, performance or durability.
- Ford must provide safety information about cargo loading and vehicle handling to each consumer who buys a Ford SUV and provide Spanish language owners' guides upon request.
In the agreement, Ford spelled out a number of consumer education initiatives that it will launch in the coming year. Ford also agreed to abide by all state and federal laws governing SUV safety, including a federal regulation that requires manufacturers of SUVs with a wheelbase under 110 inches to alert purchasers that those vehicles have a higher possibility of rollover than other vehicle types. Ford will advise consumers of steps they can take to reduce the potential for rollover or rollover-related injuries.