Ford has recalled nearly 900,000 Taurus and Mercury Sable vehicles in the US. In recent years, the car maker has been plagued by ongoing safety concerns over some of its vehicles, most notably the Explorer SUV. Having faced no less than 12 court cases concerning the safety of this model alone, it has now sensibly adopted a policy of mass recalls where even a slight safety risk has been identified.

While vehicle recalls are common in any developed automotive market, the scale of Ford’s recall, with nearly 900,000 vehicles affected, is significant. The problem lies in the front spring of the vehicle, which could break if subjected to high levels of corrosion, typically the case where salt is used on the road. If the spring does break, it could cause the front tyre to puncture. As a result, Ford dealers have been advised to insert a protective spring shield.

The manufacturer has obviously learnt some hard lessons after being embroiled in a number of controversial safety cases in recent years. The Firestone scandal, in which Ford got into an unseemly dispute with the tyre manufacturer over responsibility for faulty tyres on millions of Explorer SUVs, caused untold harm to the Ford brand, resulting in a serious loss of custom in the US. Only last month a road accident victim won $US368 million in damages from the company after a Californian court found it did nothing to address design defects in her 1997 Explorer vehicle.

Ford will now be hoping such problems are firmly in the past since it cannot afford to suffer another such setback. In a bid to pre-empt any lengthy legal battles or damaging regulatory action, it has therefore issued several recalls recently, of which the Taurus and Mercury move is the latest.

While cost minimisation is a key goal for any vehicle manufacturer, automakers must always beware of compromising the inherent build quality of the vehicle in an effort to limit overheads. Any discovery that parts used in a vehicle are unsuitable or faulty after the vehicle has left the plant is most safely addressed by a recall. Ford should rightly be prepared to endure a day or two of flak if it means correcting these problems before any serious accidents occur.

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