Blumenthal and Markey Demand Answers From DOT After Overdue Do Not Drive Instruction is Issued for 2006 Ford Rangers

Senators call for hearing in Senate Commerce Committee to investigate recall of defective Takata airbags

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today in a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, demanded further information about the delayed “do not drive” instruction issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for 2006 Ford Rangers. The warning was issued last Thursday due to high-risk defective Takata airbags, which have been ruled responsible for 21 deaths globally, including December 2015 and July 2017 fatalities involving 2006 Ford Rangers. Although Ford recalled its 2004-2006 Ranger model in 2016 for their defective Takata airbags, these recalls were not identified as high-risk and were not accompanied with a “do not drive” instruction at that time. The letter also demands an explanation for the delay in issuing a similar “do not drive” instruction and consumer remedies for Mazda B-Series trucks, which are built by Ford and similar to Ford Rangers.

“This ‘do not drive’ instruction, issued over two years after the first fatality involving a 2006 Ford Ranger and six months after the second fatality, underscores the need for NHTSA to swiftly and proactively address the deadly defect in Takata airbags and provide consumers with appropriate notice regarding the defect’s serious potential risk to life,” the Senators wrote to Chao. “We urge NHTSA to immediately take steps to identify exactly why defective Takata airbags in 2006 Ford Rangers pose a heightened risk to drivers, and determine if the same risk factors may be present in other model year vehicles that have defective Takata airbags.”

The Senators wrote separately today to Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee John Thune (R-SD), and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) requesting a hearing to explore opportunities to eliminate these deadly defects as quickly as possible.

“As the Committee with jurisdiction over automobile safety, it is our obligation to explore opportunities to eliminate these deadly defects as quickly as possible and to hold accountable any entities responsible for the delay or who fail to provide adequate protections for their customers as they wait for replacement parts,” the Senators wrote to Thune and Nelson. “It is time for the Committee to reconvene on this matter and identify constructive ways to speed up the pace of the Takata recall and protect drivers who are currently at risk.” 

Blumenthal and Markey have long called for “do not drive” instructions for vehicles with high-risk defective Takata airbags. In 2016, the Senators called on Honda to incorporate “do not drive” instructions in their recall notices.

The Senators’ letter to Chao is available for download here, and copied below. The Senators’ letter to Thune and Nelson is available for download here.

 

Dear Secretary Chao:

 

We write seeking critical details regarding the new warning from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that 2006 Ford Rangers pose “an immediate risk to safety” and that owners are urged “not to drive” these vehicles because they contain high-risk defective Takata airbags. This “do not drive” instruction, issued over two years after the first fatality involving a 2006 Ford Ranger and six months after the second fatality, underscores the need for NHTSA to swiftly and proactively address the deadly defect in Takata airbags and provide consumers with appropriate notice regarding the defect’s serious potential risk to life.

As you know, 2004-2006 Ford Rangers have all been recalled for their defective Takata airbags, but none of these recalls had previously been identified as high risk, or accompanied with a “do not drive” instruction or important consumer remedies such as free mobile repair, towing, and loaner cars. As reported by Reuters, Ford claims that the two deaths involving 2006 Rangers had air bag inflators built on the same day, suggesting that these airbags may have been improperly manufactured.  However, this information does not address the root cause of what makes defective Takata airbags in 2006 Ranger pickups so deadly.

Thus, we urge NHTSA to immediately take steps to identify exactly why defective Takata airbags in 2006 Ford Rangers pose a heightened risk to drivers, and determine if the same risk factors may be present in other model year vehicles that have defective Takata airbags. We ask that you use all tools at your disposal to require Ford to extend the “do not drive” instruction and urgent consumer remedies to all affected Ford Ranger owners unless Ford can explain why other model years recalled in this group do not pose the same risk to life as 2006 Ford Rangers.

 Finally, it has also been reported by Reuters that Mazda intends to conduct an updated recall and “do not drive” warning for some 2006 Mazda B-Series trucks, which were built by Ford and are similar to the Ranger. We are troubled that there is any delay in issuing this notice and ask that you expedite this matter. In addition, we ask that you ensure that all affected Mazda B-Series owners similarly receive “do not drive” instructions, accompanied with free mobile repair, towing, and loaner cars as part of the consumer remedy unless they can demonstrate that these vehicles do not pose a risk to automobile safety.

For the safety of all affected vehicle owners, their passengers, and drivers who share the same road with them, we ask that you attend to this matter immediately. We respectfully request a response by January 24, 2018.