Earlier this month, a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit brought against the Ford Motor Company, alleging that Ford knowingly sold customers Mustangs with “design defects” that caused the cars’ aluminum hoods to corrode. Because no “ascertainable loss” was established by the plaintiffs, the judge said, they had no cause for legal action.
Bumper to Bumper, Over and Over
The co-plaintiffs, William Mickens and Mark Solomon, both experienced what they deemed unacceptable and undue corrosion on the hoods of their respective 2006 and 2011 Mustangs. Both vehicles were covered by Ford’s 3-year, 36,000-mile “bumper to bumper” warranty, as well as a five-year corrosion protection plan that covered perforations in the cars’ body sheet panels against manufacturing defect or worker error.
Both Mickens and Solomon discovered “paint bubbling” on the hoods of their Mustangs, and both brought their vehicle to licensed Ford dealerships for assistance. Mickens had his Mustang repaired, and returned several times over the course of the warranty’s lifespan for further repairs of the same recurring issue. Solomon refused Ford’s offer for repairs, determining of his own accord that the repairs—which would’ve been covered under his warranty—wouldn’t work, and replaced the hood at his own expense instead.
Mickens and Solomon alleged that FoMoCo intentionally concealed numerous facts relating to potential corrosion of the cars’ aluminum hoods. According to the suit, Ford didn’t inform consumers that it had not performed adequate corrosion testing, and that the results of corrosion tests that had been performed were covered up. The tests in question, however, were performed on steel body panels, not aluminum components.
The plaintiffs stated that Ford practiced unlawful and deceptive practices. The judge in the case denied that claim, but said that a claim of violation of breach of warranty may have stuck. Way to pick your battles, fellas.
No Fraud Here, Folks!
After the above rulings, the court determined that one basic question remained: Did FoMoCo commit consumer fraud by concealing or evading responsibility for a design defect? No, no they did not.
Ford’s corrosion protection plans cover corrosion that perforates the body of the vehicle; non-perforating corrosion like that which Mickens and Solomon experienced is only covered under the standard “bumper to bumper” warranty. The plaintiffs pointed to a Ford-issued technical service bulletin (TSB) from 2007, titled “Aluminum Corrosion – Service Tip.”
While TSB 04-25-1 does address the type of corrosion Mickens’ and Solomon’s Mustangs experienced, it only pertains to vehicles manufactured between 2000 and 2004, and does not cover Mustangs at all because those models, during that period, had hoods fabricated from “sheet molded compound,” whatever that is.
The judge stated that, since Ford did not begin using aluminum hood panels on Mustangs until 2005, FoMoCo had no duty to disclose defects addressed in TSB 04-25-1.
Additionally, the judge ruled that the plaintiffs’ deceptive conduct claims were invalid because “the plaintiffs were unable to show that they suffered an ascertainable loss.” Both men’s claims and supporting evidence fell short of providing “the specific proofs to support or infer a quantifiable loss.”
Further, the judge noted that, because Solomon freely admits to having refused Ford’s offer for warranty-covered repair and chose to fix the problem on his own, he has no grounds for his part of the suit. The consumer, the judge ruled, is not entitle to rewrite a warranty or engage in preemptive self-help at the manufacturer’s expense based on a belief that a warranty repair would be insufficient.
Mickens’ claim was similarly dismissed, with the judge noting that the repeated repairs—all of which were covered by the warranty, and in one instance, performed after the warranty had lapsed—did not significantly impair the value of his vehicle. In fact, it was discovered that Mickens actually received more than the average value for his Mustang when he traded it in for a newer model.