Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that the Department of Justice, along with officials from 52 other jurisdictions, will receive $300,000 as a part of a $51.5 million nationwide settlement with The Ford Motor Company resolving allegations of deceptive trade practices relating to the sales and advertising of Ford SUVs.
The states alleged that Ford failed to disclose a known safety risk concerning tire failures with certain Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT tires, which came equipped on some Ford SUVs. Other allegations included that Ford's advertising misled consumers as to the safe use of Ford SUVs, and that certain aftermarket tires sold through Ford&'s "Around the Wheel" program were the same tires as the tires that came equipped on Ford SUVs when that was not true.
"Consumer safety and truth in advertising were our objectives in bringing this case," Myers said. "The settlement emphasizes Ford's responsibility of raising consumer awareness about SUV safety through good consumer education."
Myers, along with the Attorneys General of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, will jointly use $30 million of the settlement to mount a nationwide public service consumer education campaign on SUVs. The remainder will be used to pay the costs of the states' investigation.
The joint settlement agreement, admitting no law violation, comes a year after the states entered into a $51.5 million nationwide settlement with Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., related to the advertising and sale of tires that had high rates of tread separations. Bridgestone/Firestone manufactured the tires specifically for use as original equipment on Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers.
Last year's Bridgestone/Firestone settlement included $500,000 for the Oregon Department of Justice consumer protection and education fund and $30,000 for fees and investigative costs. In the 2001 Oregon tire recall programs more than 272,000 tires were replaced at a value of more than $28 million. Oregonians also participated in two other tire recalls.
The states alleged that Ford continued to use the tires even after the company knew the tires had an unacceptably high failure rate and that using the tires made Ford's 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.
In addition to providing funding for a national SUV safety campaign, the agreement contains a number of important provisions to enhance consumer safety:
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 also will advise consumers of steps they can take to reduce the potential of rollover or rollover-related injuries.
Today's announced settlement does not preclude an individual's right to assert legal claims against Ford.
Consumers wanting information about consumer protection in Oregon may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org