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Judge Orders Ford to Recall 2 Million Cars in CaliforniaAired October 11, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Already bruised by its connection to the Firestone tire recall, Ford's corporate image took another beating today. Just now, a California judge has ordered Ford to fix two million cars in that state. It's, apparently, the first time a court, not a government agency, has ordered a recall. The problem dates back to the early '80s, one the judge says Ford knew about all along, and a problem he says would have cost Ford $4 to do right the first time.
Greg Lefevre is watching this story for CNN. He's outside the courthouse in Oakland, California -- Greg.
GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I would say good morning.
That $4 figure that you just quoted is probably, now, going to escalate to something in the neighborhood of $125 million to, perhaps, $300 million if this recall does, in fact, go forward.
A state court judge here in Oakland, California, Judge Michael Ballachey, today told Ford that he is going to order them to recall an estimated 2 million cars in California. These are cars across 300 models in California. They all carry what is called a thick-film ignition module.
The contention in this class-action lawsuit was that Ford mounted this module too close to the engine; that it would get hot and that the vehicles were prone to stalling. When you're doing 50 or 60 down the freeway and your car stalls, you're in trouble, said the lawyers.
But Ford contends all along that these vehicles are, statistically, no less safe. That the stall factor was no more significant than other vehicles with other ignition systems installed. Ford says it intends to appeal.
What will happen next is the judge has ordered an attorney in San Francisco to act as a referee to determine what California Ford owners qualify for this class; how much they will be paid, how much the lawyers will be paid; and then the judge also threw in what determines the best fix -- trade in the car, fix the little ignition module, or just give the people some money?
This case will, likely, go to appeal. If you drive a Ford in California, Ford says the car is safe. The lawyers on both sides say no recall, if any, will occur probably until the middle or late part of next year. Natalie, back to you.
ALLEN: And, Greg, are these all -- again, all Ford makes and models for those years we talked about?
LEFEVRE: It is not every car, but it does span some 300 models across the Ford Motor Company car and truck line, yes.
ALLEN: And do you know what the judge was saying when he says this was a problem that Ford knew about all along and could have cost Ford $4 to do it right the first time?
LEFEVRE: The judge scolded the Ford Motor Company attorneys today in court, saying, this is a case about concealment of a problem.
The contention is that Ford knew about a problem it had with its ignition modules and did not make the change. Ford says it didn't need to make the change because, statistically, the vehicles performed just as others did.
However, the plaintiff said that they are wrong. That they're -- the plaintiffs say that there is a 9 percent higher fatality rate with some of these vehicles. And the judge says Ford needed to let the federal agencies know about that so that, perhaps, a study could be done and a recall ordered -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Greg Lefevre on the Ford recall story from California.
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