Ford faces class-action suit over Fusion probe

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Ford Motor Co. is facing a class-action lawsuit that alleges the company made false statements about the quality of 841,000 cars that are under investigation for having steering wheels that could detach while the vehicles are in motion.

The lawsuit alleges Ford violated federal securities laws by making “false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that flaws in the company’s manufacturing processes, supply chain, and/or quality control rendered at least 841,000 Ford vehicles unsafe to drive” between 2014 and 2017 that led to “precipitous decline in the market value of the company’s securities.”

The lawsuit, filed Monday in the Eastern District Court of Michigan, follows an Oct. 26 announcement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it is investigating the complaints about the steering wheel fastening bolt of 2014 through 2016 Ford Fusion vehicles becoming loose, and in one case detaching completely.

NTHSA said it has received one complaint for each model year covered by the investigation.

“A detached steering wheel can result in a loss of vehicle control that may lead to a crash,” the agency said. “A preliminary evaluation has been opened to assess the scope, frequency and safety-related consequence of the alleged defect.”

Ford declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, saying it “will respond through the appropriate legal channels.”

The company added: “Regarding NHTSA, we are cooperating with the agency, as we always do. Any customers with concerns should contact their local dealer.”

The suit alleges Ford failed to “advise its investors of any specific shortcomings in the company’s manufacturing processes, supply chain, and/or quality control” during the model years that are covered by the Fusion investigation.

“The foregoing issues, when revealed, would foreseeably subject Ford to additional regulatory scrutiny and impact the company’s profitability,” the lawsuit says.

The number of plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit was not specified in the legal paperwork that was filed on Monday because it is “so numerous,” according to Paul Ruckel, who filed the lawsuit.

“Throughout the class period, Ford securities were actively traded on the (New York Stock Exchange),” the lawsuit. “While the exact number of class members is unknown to plaintiff at this time and can be ascertained only through appropriate discovery, plaintiff believes that there are hundreds or thousands of members in the proposed class.”

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing