Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
Imagine loopholes so big that broken axles are allowed to fall through them by a captive NHTSA. Which is worse – the defect in the Ford axle or the defect in the NHTSA that allowed brackets?
An excellent article addresses matters with life or death consequences.
“May 16, 2016 — Government regulations say automakers must repair recalled vehicles to make sure consumers are safe. But consumer safety advocates say that is not happening in the case of some 1998 – 2003 model year Ford Windstar minivans with rear axles prone to breaking due to rust.
And, they say all consumers should be worried that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t see this as a problem.
In 2010 Ford first recalled about 528,000 Windstars, saying a “completely fractured rear axle may lead to a loss of vehicle control” with “little or no warning.” But the automaker told the N.H.T.S.A. not all of them would get a new axle as the result of a recall.
Ford said it would only replace an axle only if it was cracking.
Otherwise, it would install supporting brackets that would “extend axle durability in the presence of corrosion.”
The brackets were intended as a safety device “to prevent any future axle fractures from causing a loss of control,” John Cangany, a Ford spokesman said in an email. “Even with the brackets installed, there was still a potential for the axle to continue to corrode and crack.”
The federal regulators thought that was okay.
“The support brackets that were the recall remedy, eliminated the safety-related consequence if they were properly installed,” Bryan Thomas, the agency’s director of communications, said recently in a statement.
But federal regulations require a repair that will eliminate danger. A couple of brackets to prevent “a loss of control,” doesn’t do that, said Joan Claybrook, a consumer advocate and former head of Public Citizen who was in charge of the N.H.T.S.A. from 1977 to 1981. If Ford’s recall is going to be “lawful” all Windstars should get a new axle, Claybrook said.
The problem is that Ford isn’t replacing the axle, but instead trying to prevent a “catastrophic result” if it breaks, said Allan J. Kam, a safety consultant from Bethesda, Md., who was the senior enforcement lawyer for the agency before retiring in 2000.
Ford’s position is that there won’t be any “catastrophic results.” Just before the recall in 2010, a Ford spokesman said even if an axle broke the driver should be able to maintain control.
But shortly after the 2010 recall was announced, federal regulators took the unusual step of urging owners not to delay getting the problem fixed. The reason was a crash that killed Sean Bowman, a 28-year-old Massachusetts man.”