DOJ Criminal Investigation Of Ford Mileage, Emissions

An ongoing US Department of Justice investigation of Ford is continuing, 14 months after it was initiated. The investigation is over Ford cars and trucks emitting more pollutants and getting less gas mileage than labels and advertising suggests. This is across the board including all Ford cars, trucks, and SUVs. The concerns were raised back in 2018 through an anonymous employee reporting program within Ford. They tend to carry heavy fines if found guilty.

In February 2019 Ford disclosed that it was being investigated. “The investigation continues and we are cooperating,” executive director of Ford global markets Jennifer Flake told the Detroit Free Press. The Freep contacted the Department of Justice about the ongoing criminal investigation. Spokesperson Peter Carr declined to comment. The probe goes back to 2017 and was revealed in a filing to the Securities Exchange Commission in 2019. Companies are required to disclose criminal investigations for investor risk.

No way Ford is escaping this investigation without liability

A sign with the Ford logo is posted in front of Serramonte Ford

“This isn’t the first emissions case the DOJ has had to investigate,” says Jason Levine of the Center for Auto Safety. “The longer it goes on the worse it looks for Ford, their shareholders, and, most importantly, Ford owners, who will certainly bear the brunt of things — as they almost always do.”  Executive director Marcus Hudson of the Calderone Advisory Group concurred. “No way Ford is escaping this without liability. It doesn’t take this long to clear an organization of wrongdoing. I would imagine that Ford and the EPA are squabbling over data and measurement standards. While simultaneously negotiating the punishment, and what notifications need to be made to consumers.”

A year ago, Public Citizen issued a statement saying Ford had “lobbied the Trump administration to roll back the clean cars standards,” according to the Freep. “This move would cost consumers billions at the gas pump and lead to 2.2 billion additional tons of carbon pollution. Ford and the entire auto industry cannot be trusted to do right by the public or the planet.”

“Criminal probes can sometimes take years before formal charges are filed”

A man performs an emissions test on a car
An emissions test | Getty

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Tyson Slocum, energy program director at Public Citizen, said the federal review process is complicated. That stands to reason why a verdict is taking so long. “Criminal probes can sometimes take years before formal charges are filed,” he said. “It took two and a half years before DOJ reached a guilty plea with BP from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. So the fact that one year has passed since Ford acknowledged that the DOJ had opened a criminal probe is not evidence that the DOJ is dragging its feet.”

Back in April 2019, Ford VP of environment and safety engineering Kim Pittel said, “Our investigation continues into how Ford estimates road load as part of the U.S. fuel economy and emissions certification process. We are working with regulators and independent experts to complete a technical review, as planned. The Department of Justice contacted us earlier this month to let us know that they had opened a criminal investigation.” Once the DOJ makes a determination we’ll report on it. However, it looks like that won’t be any time soon.