Ford said it had isolated the problem to vehicles made during the morning… (Justin Sullivan, Getty…)
Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday that it would recall 144,000 F-150 pickup trucks because front-seat airbags could inflate without the vehicle being involved in a collision.
The recall involves trucks built at Ford's now-closed Norfolk, Va., factory from November 2004 to June 2005 and sold in the 2005 and 2006 model years. The automaker said it was aware of 238 incidents of inadvertent airbag deployment in the trucks, causing 77 injuries but no deaths.
"That includes cases that were confirmed to be related to the defect and other cases that were ambiguous and could not be ruled out being related to the issue," said Wesley Sherwood III, a Ford spokesman.
Federal safety regulators are reviewing Ford's recall plans and looking into whether it will fix enough vehicles with the potential for unexpected airbag deployment.
The F-Series is the bestselling truck in America and last year was the nation's top-selling vehicle of any type.
Ford said the inadvertent deployments that had been reported were preceded by the illumination of a dashboard warning lamp indicating that the restraint system should be serviced.
Ford said that in most instances the airbag went off within the first few seconds after the engine was started. However, there were some reports that indicated that the vehicle was on a public roadway when the deployment occurred, and Ford said it knew of one customer who jumped from the vehicle after an unexpected deployment that occurred in a driveway.
The automaker said most of the trucks that have the problem were built during the first shift of Norfolk production from November 2004 through June 2005. Trucks built at factories in Dearborn, Mich., and in Kansas City, Mo., had much smaller rates of unexpected airbag deployment.
Ford said that during the truck assembly, a "wire located in the steering wheel could have been improperly positioned so that it may chafe, expose bare copper and create the potential for a short-circuit that would illuminate the warning lamp. If not serviced, and unique circumstances occur, an inadvertent driver frontal airbag deployment may occur."
Federal safety regulators had wanted Ford to recall 1.3 million of the trucks, a wider range that included vehicles from the 2004 through 2006 model years. Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said they were looking at Ford's data to determine whether it captures enough vehicles to solve the problem. About 135,000 of the trucks were sold in the U.S. and an additional 9,000 were sold in Canada.
Sherwood said Ford decided it could correct the problem with a limited recall.
"We have analyzed the data and the majority of complaints involved the vehicles from the Norfolk plant from just the first shift during that time period that we mentioned," he said.
Ford will notify owners in early March and ask them to bring their vehicles to their local dealer for replacement of the wiring harness. This repair takes about half of a day.