Ranger Danger: How Ford fights fire with BS

Ford continues to put your safety last on the Ranger fire risk recall, predictably enough

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This report concerns Ford’s ongoing commitment to pyromania. More on that here >> at least with the Ranger and (twin brother) Mazda BT-50 utes.

It’s also a tribute to regulatory asleep-at-the-wheelness, which is not actually a word, but it should be because it’s the foundation that allows companies like Ford to treat your safety as a disposable inconvenience.

"If sufficient grass or other combustible material has accumulated, they may be ignited by the exhaust system, causing smoke or flames to appear from under the vehicle." - Ford BS recall statement

Above is the crux of Ford’s official recall statement >> They make it sound like the burning bush from Exodus. Smoke or flames might appear, as if by divine intervention.

Imagine if they’d put it like that to Joan of Arc.

This is, in fact, a design deficiency that might kill you. So it’s hardly a bullshit-appropriate issue, I’d suggest. The truth might even be a powerful asset here.

What a pity Ford apparently cannot see this.

FORD -Vs- REALITY

Ford produced a video (right) it contextualised as “an important message for Ford Ranger owners” and pushed it live but unlisted it on its YouTube channel the day after it issued the official recall in December.

The timing leads me to conclude they didn’t exactly fall all over themselves to rush the recall into the public domain. Seems to me like they burned significant time writing a script, getting the assets together, commissioning a film crew, shooting, cutting, approving and posting it.

In the context of safety advice, Ford’s statements are disgraceful and inappropriate. What they’re allowed to get away with saying is in no way proportional the seriousness of the risk posed by this design deficiency. The advice is lousy, in my view.

Nothing like putting public safety first. Seriously: It's nothing like it.

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Fail #1: Drive to dealer

"It’s important to check your vehicle for any debris or build-up and clear it out. We recommend you visit your local Ford dealership, who is on hand to assist."

(Pronouns - so complex...) But more to the point: If you drive over grass, thus opening the door to your very own ‘Joan of Arc/Ranger’ moment, the official advice is: drive to your local Ford dealer.

To me, it just doesn’t seem responsible or reasonable to advise anyone to drive for some significant distance, during which the DPF might, heaven forbid, regenerate. If it does that, it will reach 750 degrees C, which is roughly three times the absolute autoignition temperature of grass.

So, you’ve got the fuel, you’ve got the heat input, you’ve got massive airflow. Bingo! On balance, driving to the dealer after driving on grass seems like quite poor advice to me.

Perhaps, there’s an alternative...

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Fail #2: 'Wants' -Vs- 'needs'

"If you want to clean it out yourself here’s how it’s done."

If you want to. That’s an interesting way to put it. Because I want a rich tapestry of predictable things, some of them even above the waist, but not one of those things is the opportunity to clean out a dodgy, badly designed Ford DPF installation.

If I just paid nearly $70,000 for a Ford Ranger Wildtrak, I specifically want not to have to do this. Not once. Not ever. I want a bunch of engineers to protect me from this risk. That’s why I paid them the big bucks.

Call me demanding, but I’d suggest this issue is outside the subjective domain of ‘what I want to do’ and inside the objective domain of not burning to death in my new Ranger because Ford got the design wrong.

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Fail #3: Don't waste my time

"Be sure that the ignition’s been switched off for at least an hour."

An hour. Stop for an hour every time I drive on the grass?

Seriously? That sounds impractical, inconvenient, inefficient and un-workable. I’m digging deep here to remain dignified.

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Fail #4: Credibility nosedive

"When cleaning it’s advisable to use proper protective wares, like gloves and safety glasses."

I suppose this is an inevitable consequence of getting spin doctors to write the script. Protective ‘wares’. Really? I always thought it was ‘protective ‘equipment’...

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Fail #5: DPF -Vs- environment

"As the diesel particulate filter cleans your exhaust emissions and protects the environment…"

Particle filters don’t protect the environment. They filter carcinogenic exhaust particles. Thus, they protect people. (Science of truck.) #facepalm

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Fail #6: Ranger -Vs- grass

"So once you clear any debris, it’s important to avoid driving over high grass or vegetation."

Is that a joke? Just don’t drive on grass. 'Sorry mate - can't go on. There's a tuft of spinifex on the track. I’ll be OK. You go ahead without me. Tell my wife I love her.'

Incredibly, this is (pretty much) the official advice. Just turn back. Grass ahead. It would be more credible for Ford dealers to hand out manicure scissors to cut down any malevolent dry grass ahead, perhaps with a makeup brush to sweep it out of the way.

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Fail #7: Responsibility. Huh?

"...until a solution is available…"

That’s very clever. Bravo, Ford spin doctors. Well done. Hall of fame spin, right there. It’s like: We’re not taking ownership of the problem, or the provision of a solution. These things are thus independent of Ford. Like, we’re all in this together. Life’s a bitch.

It’s not like we’re knowingly continuing to sell the vehicle with this defect, and it’s not like we delayed acknowledgement of the problem for long enough to produce a disgracefully disingenuous unlisted video about it…

...is exactly what a responsible carmaker with a a functioning moral compass would be able to claim at this point.

HOW THE HELL IS THIS ALLOWED?

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To Ford I suggest: That’s some mighty fine bullshit you’ve produced there. The creme de la creme of brown de la brown.

To the ACCC, which allows this kind of disgraceful corporate conduct, I respectfully suggest you desist lounging around in the nation’s capital, fondling each other’s vegetables, and perhaps instead reign in egregious car company liberties with consumer safety.

This is, after all, what we are paying you to do.

It’s been months since Ford issued that recall. No change to the December 18 recall status, I note, on productsafety.gov.au. Deafening silence on implementing a proper engineering solution.

You, the hapless Ranger owner, must therefore continue to go Rip van Winkle for one hour every time your Ranger operates in the same postcode as blade of kikuyu. Seems unfair.

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FULL DISCLOSURE

I’d be interested to know how many of the almost 10,000 purchasers of new 4X4 Rangers so far this year were informed of this problem on the showroom floor.

Failure to disclose this important issue is quite probably a breach of the Trade Practices Act.

(I’m not a lawyer.)

I wasn’t even a particularly good engineer. Spectacularly crap is probably more accurate. (Several of my lecturers suggested that, if memory serves.) The quintessential engineering square peg, which is why I’m a journalist now - but I point this out because even an abysmal engineer such as myself could get a solution together for this problem inside a week.

We’re just talking about retrofitting a simple debris shield, and then incorporating it into production.

The clock continues to tick. We are currently at 15 weeks and counting.

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CONCLUSION

Are we seriously suggesting this is a reasonable timeframe for Ranger owners to operate in a state of fire safety limbo? Because if we are, then, frankly, I put it to you that this is not the kind of can-do attitude that got the crew of Apollo 13 back to Earth.

It’s just not.

Still, Ford is nothing if not consistent on the pyromania front. Forty-seven years of utter dependability there. The inaugural Ford pyromania branding exercise orbited around the delightfully cynical and morally indefensible Ford Pinto memo >>

I see no evidence they’re even making an attempt to take responsibility for this disgracefully  design. You might use this notion to make an informed new vehicle purchasing decision.

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