More than 30 Ford owners have filed a class action complaint against the automaker saying that potential cracking in the tailgate presents a safety issue that “could cause the window in the tailgate to drop out and hit/injure the operator or bystanders,” reads the court documents.
“Unknown to plaintiffs and the other class members when they purchased or leased the Ford vehicles (and until manifestation of the defect), the tailgates of the Ford vehicles were made of flawed materials, improperly designed, and/or were assembled using deficient techniques,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys allege in court documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. “As a result, these tailgates were defective at the moment of manufacture, assembly, and sale and were substantially certain to exhibit a large, discernible crack to the tailgate appliqué panel.”
The Ford vehicles at issue include the model 2002 through model 2005 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, and model 2003 through model 2005 Lincoln Aviator. Plaintiffs represent more than 20 states.
Plaintiffs say Ford knew of the tailgate issue since at least 2002.
The tailgate is made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or Xenoy, both plastic materials that tend to crack under stress, attorneys’ say.
“The cost of repairing a cracked tailgate in the Ford Vehicles, including parts and labor, can be at least $300 to $800 per crack. The repair does not protect against subsequent cracks; however, and the cracked tailgate problem will continue to manifest itself regardless of repair. Repairing the shattered backlite can cost between $1,000 and $2,000,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys say in court documents.
The attorneys contend that Ford issued at least five technical service bulletins to dealers regarding the tailgate issue.
In a related matter, plaintiffs’ attorney note that in October 2004, Ford recalled several of its models due to a faulty lift-glass hinge. The issue could have led to the window in the tailgate dropping out and hitting the driver or bystanders.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys are seeking a jury trial, as well as damages and class action status.
Ford’s attorneys deny all allegations.
“Ford specifically denies that the appliqué ‘encases and supports the tailgate window,’ as alleged. The appliqué is a plastic trim piece with no functional role whatsoever,” according to Ford’s attorneys.
The attorneys confirm a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) was published on July 18, 2003.
“[T]his TSB states, in part, that certain 2002-03 Explorer and Mountaineer vehicles ‘may exhibit a damaged/cracked plastic appliqué without glass damage,’” reads the court documents.
Ford specifically denies that “a cracked appliqué can cause the lift-gate glass to drop or break and states that there is no safety risk whatsoever relating to a cracked lift-gate appliqué.”
“Ford further states that the photograph included by plaintiffs immediately preceding this paragraph is irrelevant and misleading, and should be stricken from the third-amended complaint [Editor’s note: See photo included with article], in that the fact that a lift-gate window breaks on a lift gate that also has a cracked appliqué does not establish that the appliqué had anything at all to do with causing the glass to break,” Ford’s attorneys claim.
Ford denies that plaintiffs are entitled to any relief.
The automaker seeks a jury trial.
To read the plaintiffs complaint, click here.
To read Ford’s response, click here.