NHTSA Calls Out Ford and Mercedes for Very Different Reasons

Both Ford and Mercedes are under fire from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for issues with their vehicles. Mercedes is being criticized for current safety issues on their Sprinter Vans, though no vehicles have been recalled yet. Meanwhile, the NHTSA is looking back at Ford’s 700,000 car recall in 2020 and if it was handled appropriately. While the investigation as to each has only just begun, here’s everything we know.

Amazon Mercedes Sprinter Van
Amazon Mercedes Sprinter Van | Artur Widak via Getty Images

The Mercedes Sprinter vans could roll while in park.

If you’ve purchased something from Amazon, there’s a good chance it got to your doorstep in a Mercedes Sprinter van. The model year in question is 2019 where the vans are can roll away soon after parking. If the driver puts the van into Auto-P, the digitized park setting, and walks away, the van could cause injury to pedestrians and damage to property.

What’s odd is that the investigation is spanning commercial Sprinter vans rather than personal use. There are passenger versions of the Sprinter van available. Of the 11 complaints, it’s uncertain how many were submitted by Amazon employees, but in 2019 almost 30,000 Sprinter vans were sold. If these complaints turn into a recall, it’ll be on a massive scale.

What we do know is that one Amazon employee had this same complaint twice. Jalopnik reported that, in March of this year, they came forward and said “it rolled backward down a hill on top of someone’s car and could have killed someone … This is my second Amazon-branded Mercedes Sprinter accident on different vehicles, with the same exact faulty brake operating system.”

Mercedes and the NHTSA are in close communication, and the German automaker agrees to comply with the investigation. Ford’s troubles, on the other hand, have to do with the past catching up to them.

NHTSA digs into the timeliness of Ford’s 2020 recall

Ford sign is seen on December 14, 2020 in Hamburg, Germany.
The Ford logo | Jeremy Moeller via Getty Images

Back in September of 2020, over 700,000 vehicles were recalled for faulty electronics. This inclued the Edge, Escape, Expedition, Explorer, F-150, F-250 SD, F-350 SD, F-450 SD, F-550 SD and. However, Ford knew about this problem back in April and only monitored the situation rather than acting on it. In July and August, Ford met with the NHTSA to discuss the issue. But their plan didn’t include a recall until September, likely prompted by the meetings with the agency.

The issue isn’t the recall itself, it’s how fast Ford acted on it. They delayed the recall until it was absolutely necessary, as fixing 700,000 vehicles is no easy (or cheap) feat. This isn’t the first time Ford knew about an issue and did nothing about it. When the third-generation Ford Focus debuted in 2010, it was sold with a faulty transmission. Thousands of people complained that the cars would stutter on acceleration, or accelerate without the driver’s input.

So what did Ford do? Nothing. Ford issued recalls, but even the fixes they used only masked the problem temporarily. People would go into dealerships, get the fix, and come back months later with the same issue. Detroit Free Press conducted an extensive study on the issue, but the point is that Ford struggles with properly handling problems.

What does this mean for Mercedes and Ford?

Amazon Mercedes Sprinter Vans
Amazon Mercedes Sprinter Vans | Niall Carson via Getty Images

Mercedes is jumping on the issue after just 11 complaints, partly because their Sprinter van is so vital to businesses. Ford, on the other hand, is being investigated because of how poorly they respond to issues. What we have here is a matter of integrity, a company that addresses the problem the moment they arise, and another that pushes them aside until they can’t any longer.

Ford’s reputation in America, despite its history of late recalls, will likely be unaffected in America. Even in the chip shortage, Ford managed to turn a profit thanks to demand from the new Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning. And Amazon will continue to use Mercedes branded vans. In short, neither company is going under, but these NHTSA reports do showcase these automaker’s true colors.

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