by Ryan Beene
Ford Motor Co. will recall about 2 million F-150 pickups in North America to fix faulty seat-belt components that have sparked fires following crashes, after U.S. auto safety regulators began an investigation into the issue last month.
The safety campaign will cost about $140 million, and the expense will be reflected in Ford’s third-quarter earnings results, the second-largest U.S. automaker said in a regulatory filing. The company is maintaining its 2018 profit forecast.
Faulty seat-belt pretensioners in the F-150s can spark excessively in a crash and ignite other materials or gases in the vehicle, according to a recall notice posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ford is aware of 17 reports of smoke or a fire in the U.S. linked to the issue, but no injuries. Six incidents also were reported in Canada, according to a company statement.
The pretensioners set off an explosive charge when sensors detect an accident to rapidly retract the belt instantly to secure passengers. Excess sparks may ignite gases in the body pillar that houses the pretensioners, which may then cause carpet and other materials to catch fire, Ford said.
The callback covers F-150 pickups from the 2015 through 2018 model years. It’s the second time in less than a year that Ford has recalled more than 1 million of its highly profitable pickups. The automaker took an estimated $267 million charge in the fourth quarter of last year to recall and fix faulty door latches on 1.3 million F-Series pickups, including the F-150.
NHTSA opened a preliminary investigation of the pretensioner defect in August after five fires were reported to the agency. Three vehicles were destroyed by fires, and in two cases the fires self-extinguished, according to NHTSA.
The recall covers about 1.6 million pickups in the U.S., plus roughly 340,000 in Canada and 37,000 in Mexico, Ford said.