Ford Is Still Trying to Clean Up Takata Airbag Repairs That Dealers Botched

SAN MARCOS, TEXAS - JANUARY 03: A Ford Bronco is seen for sale on the Griffith Ford dealership lot on January 03, 2024 in San Marcos, Texas. Auto sales rose sharply within the first nine months of 2023, leading to an increase in double-digit percentages. The shortage was due to low inventory levels, supply chain hiccups and labor disruptions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increase is being attributed to an excess in demand and greater availability on dealership lots. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Ford is one of many car companies affected by the massive Takata airbag recall over a fault that has claimed dozens of lives. On Sunday, a report from the Detroit Free Press alleged that Ford had started on a campaign to reinspect 270,000 vehicles previously serviced for Takata inflator replacement, for repairs that weren't done properly or, in some cases, not at all. However, the automaker is refuting the publication's findings, noting "many inaccuracies" in the original story, and that the number of vehicles potentially still containing Takata airbags is actually in the hundreds, not thousands.

Update Wed., Feb. 28, 2024, 9:05 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with new information and figures from Ford that The Drive received after publication.

After reviewing "internal company documents, dealership memos, federal regulatory filings and court papers," the Detroit Free Press estimated earlier this week that there may be about 4,000 Fords previously serviced under the recall that remain hazardous due to improper repair. In some cases, technicians reportedly marked vehicles as fixed and fraudulently billed Ford for incomplete repairs. But in most, Ford dealers reportedly assigned repairs to inexperienced techs who then botched service on the critical safety system.

2006 Ford Ranger STX Super Cab
2006 Ford Ranger STX Super Cab. Ford via

The former case was believed to stem from disgruntled technicians who saw their pay for recall repairs cut as they came to comprise the majority of their workload. This supposedly led to techs cutting corners, or even outright not performing work they claimed they did.


But Ford alleges that the Free Press is conflating separate issues concerning recalls. The group of 232,000 vehicles mentioned in the article, said to consist mostly of Ford Ranger pickups, had its Takata inflators removed as part of the original campaign years back. The publication initially stated that some of the replacement inflators may have been improperly installed, which could result in a failure to deploy in the event of a crash. While Ford confirmed to The Drive that it has been reinspecting the quality of those repairs as part of Recall 23S08, it also said that even poorly installed inflators will still deploy, just "not as we tested for."

In another case, Ford recognizes that "40,000 customers had work completed by dealership technicians who submitted false claims on other recalls." In response, the automaker issued Recall 22B05 in early 2022, asking customers who dealt with these service departments to come back in "out of an abundance of caution." Ford said that about a quarter of these vehicles have since been looked at again, and of that contingent, 98.5% had "no issues." Based on that data, Ford estimates that 600 customers may currently be driving vehicles that still contain Takata airbags—not 4,000—and it's still attempting to reach those owners to set things right.

The Detroit Free Press reported that as part of Ford's recall audit, the company is reportedly fining dealers $10,000 per instance of fraudulent repair, with some dealer fines exceeding $100,000. A supposed whistleblower that spoke to the outlet expressed concern that more vehicles are implicated than Ford has acknowledged.

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