Judge sets September trial date in Ford recall case

The Associated Press
Sunday March 25, 2001


A California judge set a Sept. 17 trial date for a case in which Ford Motor Co. is accused of equipping most of its 1983-1995 vehicles with faulty ignition devices, which made them prone to stalling. 

The move came five months after Alameda County Superior Court Judge Michael E. Ballachey ordered a recall of the nearly two million cars still on the road as part of a high-profile California class action suit against the automaker. 

While the judge ordered the recall, it’s up to a jury to decide whether to award damages, which could amount to billions of dollars. 

The suit challenges Ford’s placement of the thick film ignition (TFI) module, which regulates electric current to the spark plugs.  

In 300 models sold between 1983 and 1995, the module was mounted on the distributor near the engine  

block, where it was exposed to  

high temperatures. 

Last year Ballachey found that Ford was warned by an engineer that high temperatures would cause the device to fail and stall the engine. Internal documents show that Ford confirmed the problem and could have moved the module to a cooler spot for an extra $4 per vehicle. 

Ballachey said Ford concealed the information from federal safety regulators, who were studying hundreds of complaints about Ford vehicles stalling. The government found no safety problems with the modules and Ford publicly denies any problems with the modules. 

The recall, ordered in October, has not yet happened. A plan to replace the older modules with modern, heat-resistant versions has not been approved by the judge. 

Similar suits are pending in other states and could develop into a nationwide class action suit, affecting about 20 million vehicles.