Ford Motor Company faces a proposed class action filed by a Tennessee consumer who alleges defects with the paint and/or primer and aluminum body panels on certain F-150 vehicles can cause premature corrosion and damage to overlaying paint. Ford, the 29-page suit claims, possessed knowledge of the apparent defects yet failed to disclose such to consumers, as well as provide necessary body repairs to affected vehicles.
Ford F-150 pickup trucks were manufactured with steel bodies for many years until the automaker, in 2004, chose to incorporate aluminum hoods and body panels on a number of vehicle models, the lawsuit begins. According to the case, though Ford made the switch to aluminum body panels and hoods as a means of reducing vehicle weight and improving fuel efficiency, the aluminum hoods came with an “inherent, latent defect” in that they could quickly corrode and damage the overlaying paint.
Arguing that Ford has been aware of the so-called corrosion defect since at least 2004, the lawsuit says the company issued a number of Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) in which it reportedly identified to technicians that the aluminum panels were the source of the corrosion. One TSB issued in December 2004, for instance, informed technicians that some Ford models “may exhibit a bubbling or blistering under the paint on aluminum body parts,” an issue the automaker attributed to “iron contamination of the aluminum panel,” the complaint states.
Ford reportedly sent a similar TSB two years later, in December 2006, that applied to 2004-2007 vehicle models. In the TSB, the suit says, Ford again warned technicians of the aluminum corrosion on certain cars’ hoods, stating that testing had revealed that “aluminum corrosion was caused by iron particles working their way into the aluminum body part, prior to it being painted.” According to the case, Ford sent out a third TSB 10 years later, in February 2016, and a fourth in August 2017 concerning the same problem, with no remedy for vehicles suffering from premature aluminum corrosion or paint chipping, peeling or bubbling.
Citing yet a fifth TSB issued in February 2019, the lawsuit asserts that Ford, as of this year, still has no answer for the premature corrosion and paint issues affecting proposed class members’ vehicle models. Despite the vehicles being “plagued” by the apparent corrosion defect, Ford, the lawsuit says, has continued to sell trucks with aluminum hoods that may prematurely corrode.
In addition to the alleged premature corrosion issues the case links to Ford’s aluminum hoods, the lawsuit further claims that many vehicles owned or leased by proposed class members have experienced paint flaking as a result of defective primer applied to body panels. According to the complaint, while Ford drivers have for years complained to the automaker about paint peeling off their vehicles’ roofs and side panels, the company has instead “turned its back on customers” by denying all responsibility for paint-related damage to proposed class members’ F-150s.
“Defendant has not disclosed the Primer Defect, has not publicly acknowledged its existence, and has not taken any reasonable steps to rectify the situation,” the suit claims, adding that consumers reasonably expect that the paint on a vehicle marketed as a “heavy-duty pickup truck” will last longer than a few years.
The complaint goes on to state that while each new Ford F-150 comes with a bumper-to-bumper 36-month, 36,000-mile limited warranty, which includes a two-year extended coverage provision for defects related to body panel corrosion, the automaker’s coverage only applies to a body panel that has been perforated, or corroded completely through. The case stresses that Ford has known for years that it is “impossible for aluminum body panels to perforate.”
The lawsuit looks to cover both a nationwide class and Tennessee subclass of drivers who, within the applicable statute of limitations period, purchased or leased a new or used Ford F-150.