By on July 24, 2012

Ford is pointing fingers at supplier TI Automotive who is to blame for last week’s surprise recall of about 11,500 Escape SUVs. The trucks were deemed a fire risk because of a flaw in its fuel lines. Ford told the NHTSA that some of the fuel lines were “mechanically scored” at TI Automotive’s plant in Ashley, Indiana.

The documents say that a fuel line with a cut on the surface could split open and leak. Ford took the extreme step of telling its customers to stop driving the 2013 Escape with the 1.6 liter engine, and to contact their local Ford dealer, whereupon a loaner vehicle would be delivered and the Escape brought to the dealership for repairs.

Ford spokeswoman Marcey Zwiebel told Reuters that the affected vehicles were made at Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant from October 8, 2011 to July 11. TI Automotive has repaired the manufacturing flaw and is still making fuel lines for the 2013 Escape, Reuters says. Production of the Escape was not halted as a result of the recall.

The documents name three engine fires, two experienced by Ford employees. The supplier is, well, hosed.

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45 Comments on “Fire Escape: It’s the Supplier’s Fault...”


  • avatar
    dwight

    I would like to be an employee who gets the first release of cars to test. No matter how crappy the first production releases can be, with engine fires, missing brake parts, faulty computers, give me a free car and I’ll put it through its paces.

    Glad Ford caught this early as the new Escape looks awesome. Sales should be good despite this blip.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    This will be forgotten long before the next season of Dancing with America’s Next Biggest Loser starts.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Ford, unlike some of its competitors, just committed the ‘unthinkable,’ by not only identifying the supplier where a production gitch manifested itself (that’s not so rare in and of itself), but by literally waiving a red flag, standing on the rooftop and singling out TI Automotive at the top of its lungs.

      I can nearly guarantee that the Japanese Automakers Toyota, Honda or Nissan would’ve kept this as quiet as possible, because it does no good to yell loudly & publicly about a particular supplier after the fact (rather, the Japanese would’ve contacted any supplier with a problem, gotten to the bottom of the problem quietly, and would’ve offered to send technical experts gratis to the supplier if circumstances warranted it).

      But that’s just one of the striking differences of approach between how long term successful companies build and interact with their supplier base, and the tactics of companies that may not have as sanguine a future?

      http://www.scribd.com/doc/50661051/building-deep-supplier-relationship

      • 0 avatar
        FJ60LandCruiser

        Or just deflected blame away from Ford and towards the supplier, like they did with the exploding Firestones a decade and a half ago.

        Whether you see this as a refreshingly honest way of doing business or shifting the blame is up to you.

        …plus it’s kind of hard to bury a problem like explosive engine fires.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        One can hardly compare this to the Bridgestone debacle, which involved massive tortfeasor litigation regarding many injuries and deaths based on a massive volume of the then subject matter vehicles that had been produced, shod with Bridgestone tires, and sold, over a period of many years.

        This is a defect caught early on, regarding a newly launched vehicle that’s not yet sold more than 13,000 affected copies, with no reports of fires, injuries or deaths.

        The former inevitably had to be handled the way it was because product liability litigation based on property damage, injuries and deaths had already been initiated; the latter- not by a long stretch.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        “Or just deflected blame away from Ford and towards the supplier, like they did with the exploding Firestones a decade and a half ago.”

        That’s not an accurate summation of what happened. It’s more accurate to say that they pointed fingers at each other because both made decisions that contributed to the problem.

        It’s also true that tires from Firestone’s Decatur plant failed at a higher rate than tires from any other plant. Firestone has to eat responsibility for their own carelessness on that one.

        The NHTSA denied Firestone’s request to open an investigation into the Explorer’s engineering, saying that the Explorer was no more likely to roll over after a tread separation than any other SUV. Again, Firestone isn’t looking so great.

        Ford wasn’t free from blame on this issue, but Firestone was clearly the bigger screw up.

      • 0 avatar
        dperreno

        Umm, as I understand it, Ford did not “wa(ve) a red flag, standing on the rooftop and singling out TI Automotive at the top of its lungs.” Rather, the affected part and supplier were identified (as required) in documents submitted to NHTSA last week. Reuters is credited with calling out TI Automotive as the supplier.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        dperreno:

        “Umm, as I understand it, Ford did not “wa(ve) a red flag, standing on the rooftop and singling out TI Automotive at the top of its lungs.” Rather, the affected part and supplier were identified (as required) in documents submitted to NHTSA last week. Reuters is credited with calling out TI Automotive as the supplier”

        Those are good points. After reflecting on what I had written, and what you just did, I insinuated that Ford tipped off Reuters & other news outlets and hung them out to dry on purpose, which probably is not the case.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    so…where was quality control?
    At BOTH ends, recieving or shipping?

    Shouldn’t there have been somebody examining parts off the line for boxing AND somebody at receiving opening and signing off on quality of material?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Could the same thing be said about gas pedal assemblies at Toy….ohhhhh no, I’m not going there.

      I’m going to pop some popcorn.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Save me some, please?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        APaGttH, I doubt Ford or GM would be held to the same standard as Toyota or any of the foreign automakers producing in America.

        The UAW-cronies and the foreign-haters were all over anything that affected Toyota in a negative way, stating publicly that it was all Toyota’s fault and that the American suppliers were just manufacturing to Toyota standards and specs.

        This will all be forgotten in no time. In America no one is ever held responsible for anything. It is always someone else’s fault or there are mitigating circumstances that excuse epic fails.

        Unless, of course, it happens to Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        challenger2012

        Highdesertcar You left your tin hat at the Tea Party rally. Toyota’s problems were real and not a conspiracy to get Toyota by the Libs and Obama. I know it is much easier to swallow anything regurgitated by Rush concerning GM and Chrysler, for it is easier than thinking.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        challenger2012, I’m an Independent. I have voted for candidates from both political parties. I don’t listen to Rush and think all blowhards are pompous @sses. Don’t watch Fox either.

        I am against bailouts, handouts and nationalization of anything, anywhere, anytime. Business should succeed or fail on their own merits, not be carried on the taxpayers’ dime.

        But with weenies like you, America’s car makers can do no wrong. You are selectively overlooking the mass exodus of the last century away from the domestic car makers towards the foreign brands.

        The reason was because the domestic automakers did so much wrong, and Americans voted with their feet and their wallets. They bought the better foreign products.

        But if Toyota or Honda have the same problems befall them, you can’t rip them enough in public to discredit them.

        This thing with Ford will be forgotten in no time, just like all the Ford recalls of the past, as if it never happened. The UAW will see to that.

      • 0 avatar
        BrianL

        highdesertcat,
        I would say no, Toyota isn’t held to the same standard as Ford or GM, it is actually held to a lower standard. When people have a problem with a Toyota, they think it is the exception. When it is Ford or GM, it is the rule.

        Suppliers screw up. That is one reason the Tundras had problems with crank or cam shafts, I don’t remember which a few years ago.

      • 0 avatar

        Toyota gas pedal was purely fake and even NTSB had to admit it. That’s right, official government investigation officically concluded it. We can engage into the conspiracy theories until cows come home, but the SUA story was fake, fake, fake. The gas line damage is real. This is key difference.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        crunch crunch crunch

        …but the SUA story was fake, fake, fake…

        crunch crunch crunch

        Unintended acceleration? Never proven.

        Problems with the return spring assembly on CTS built gas pedals resulting in millions of Toyota vehicles recalled and the pedals updated, shaped, carved, and shimmed.

        Very, VERY real and a very real proven problem.

        crunch, crunch, crunch

        Don’t try and rewrite history buddy.

        geozinger, here’s some popcorn, I put extra butter on it.

        *burp*

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        BrianL, I think you may be on to something there. I never quite looked at it that way. Toyota may actually be held to a much higher standard than the domestic car makers.

        Maybe people have been conditioned to expect Toyota products to be as dependable as an appliance. Maybe that’s why so many people deserted the domestic car makers in the past and defected to Toyota, et al, during the mass migration away from the domestic brands.

        And based on the track record of our 2008 Japan-built Highlander that has never experienced any problems in 85K miles, I would say you are right. But if it breaks now I would tend to be a lot more lenient and forgiving because of all the trouble free miles we’ve already enjoyed, when it was my wife’s primary ride.

        I also consider myself a fair-minded individual. So I bought a 2012 Grand Cherokee for my wife, built by the UAW and imported from Detroit. In all fairness it is the best Jeep product we’ve ever owned, and we’ve owned several used ones in the past.

        However, I don’t want to tempt fate, and based on my previous experiences with American-made cars and trucks, I have resolved to trade for a new one before the warranty expires on both my wife’s Grand Cherokee and my Tundra.

        The Highlander I may keep around as a third or spare vehicle, just for grins. You know, just to see exactly when it actually breaks. It was our first ever Toyota product and for us it has been a great ownership experience.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I used to inspect auto parts for a living. I would speculate Ford either ordered TI Automotive to set up an inspection plan or TI Automotive set the inspection plan up themselves. Metrics will be confirmed and the fuel lines will be inspected for a set number of days. Little plants like this in little towns exist all over the Midwest/rustbelt. Then there are semis hauling these parts around everywhere. No, the plant is probably not union. Ford is probably not TI’s only customer.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      TI Automotive has the organized crime cancer. http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/12375790/ti-automotive-union-ok-deal

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        I followed your link. It does not describe anything in any way related to organized crime. It describes unionism and collective bargaining between management and workers.

        Curb your unprovoked union-bashing, please.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        Hardly unprovoked. There are more than enough examples of union graft, thuggery, and sheer incompetence to support both the criminal and “cancer” labels.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Reply to “Volts On Fire”:

        I should not have to point this out either since others already have, but your signature itself is evidence that you too are not exactly impartial.

        The Volts that went on fire had been in crashes, and independent surveys have shown that the Volt is among the MOST reliable new cars made today, from any maker. (And no, I am not a GM apologist.) Most of those who make a point of suggesting otherwise are usually hopping on the “bash the GM bailout because Obama supported it” bus. I hope you’re not part of that crowd, but it does seem to overlap the union-bashers considerably.

        And given the high rate of criminal behavior on the part of billionaire corporate plutocrats, do you condemn them with the same broad brush you’re so eager to use on the representatives of their workers?

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        tony, do ya really think I care what you (and others) think about my impartiality?

        Of course I’m not impartial. Of course I have an agenda. I wanted GM to die in 2008 (when Dubya made another in a long series of blunders during his term) and I want GM to die today, taking the UAW with it. Pretty much any way that happens is fine with me.

        I don’t care how many Volts actually caught fire, or why. What matters is that many Americans still think of fires when they hear about the Chevy Volt. I hope that never changes.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        “tony, do ya really think I care what you (and others) think about my impartiality?

        “Of course I’m not impartial. Of course I have an agenda. I wanted GM to die in 2008 (when Dubya made another in a long series of blunders during his term) and I want GM to die today, taking the UAW with it. Pretty much any way that happens is fine with me.

        I don’t care how many Volts actually caught fire, or why. What matters is that many Americans still think of fires when they hear about the Chevy Volt. I hope that never changes.”

        Volts, I’m not carrying this on just to be argumentative — at this point, I sincerely don’t understand.

        If I’m reading you right, you know full well that the “Volts go on fire” meme is a distortion being peddled just to bend public opinion, yet you’re perfectly OK with that.

        I’m no big GM booster myself. (Full disclosure: I own a Honda.) I was here for Farago’s “GM Death Watch” series, and I was just as amused as anybody else. If you want proof, you can even look up my old TTAC guest column “Bye American?”.

        But there are real people’s jobs at stake here. Their lives. Their wives (or husbands!). Their kids and mortgages, and through those, the health of their towns. When people lose their jobs, it’s statistically proven that more of them will hit the bottle, get divorced, leave an abandoned house, turn to crime — all the stuff that’s bad for me, you, your neighborhood, and the future of YOUR job no matter what it is.

        Why would you want all that, just to exact petty vengeance on a mismanaged company and some unions whose existence offends you? And when they DO finally build a good American product with the leading-edge tech we all ridiculed them for not having, why deliberately smear them so nobody knows it? I sincerely don’t get it. Please explain it for me. Really.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’ll say it. Those of us that have to earn a living based on our own merits and performance have to subsidize a couple hundred thousand collectivists’ fantasy land existence to the tune of fifty-some billion dollars so they don’t have to face reality. Millions of those same dollars find their way into political campaigns and block voting efforts to keep ever worse politicians in office where they are destroying the principles that made this country worth defending. Street criminals are better for this nation than union members.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        “But there are real people’s jobs at stake here. Their lives. Their wives (or husbands!). Their kids and mortgages, and through those, the health of their towns. When people lose their jobs, it’s statistically proven that more of them will hit the bottle, get divorced, leave an abandoned house, turn to crime … Why would you want all that, just to exact petty vengeance on a mismanaged company and some unions whose existence offends you?”

        Boo f cking hoo. These “people” you speak of contributed directly to the downfall of American manufacturing superiority, by extorting their employers for more and more money under the constant threat of strike. (That scenario very nearly succeeded in coming about to its eventual, natural end – the death of those companies, and those jobs – until the government intervened and interfered with an otherwise beautifully Darwinian process.) I will not consider them as human beings. They’re trash, with a thoroughly undeserved sense of entitlement, and it’s time for that to stop.

        My vindictiveness against these thugs and criminals is not “petty,” tony. If you think it is, I’m not interested in debating the point any further with you, because I won’t waste time with people who are simply and unequivocally wrong. Nor am I interested in essentially bribing these thugs to not act like the criminals they are, which is what you would seem to prefer from the scenario you describe. There are far more productive uses for the billions of dollars wasted to prop up unions, and more deserving recipients of that cash.

        If those people aren’t willing and able to find alternate, honorable work when the UAW finally dies, then I say let ‘em rot. As for the criminal element among them, well — I’ve been ready and able to defend my family and my property for quite some time against the rotten underclass of society. Are you?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Big quantifiable differences between labor unions and trade unions. You want it built right, on time, and on budget, call a tradesman. Want a whole plant to be a closed shop? Call a labor union organizer.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        “Hardly unprovoked. There are more than enough examples of union graft, thuggery, and sheer incompetence to support both the criminal and “cancer” labels.”

        That’s incredibly poor reasoning. Some humans are murderers and there are more than enough examples of that. By your logic, it is appropriate to state that you are a murderer, since you know, you are a card-carrying human.

        “Painting with a broad brush gets the job done quicker!” – A. Lazyman

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        At worst the UAW is a haven for criminals. At best, it’s a crutch for the weak-minded who know they couldn’t survive in the workplace solely on their own merits.

        Either way, it needs to die – or, like the cancer it is, eradicated. Happy to see the UAW is definitely heading that direction.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I used to manage “Local Union No.3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers” “people” in NYC. My greatest contribution to my employer was devising a system that got them out of our way for a few hours every day so we could do their work.

        If unions aren’t organized crime syndicates, why do they argue that they’re entitled to use organized crime tactics when they go to court? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Enmons

      • 0 avatar
        alfabert

        +1 to tonycd’s article, worth the re-read:
        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/08/bye-american/

  • avatar
    C170guy

    Okay, well that was predictable. Ford throws the supplier under the bus.

    Here is another predictable question, you can turn this around and ask: Why is Ford buying faulty parts from a manufacturer with ineffective quality control?

    When you order the replacement parts from the Ford counter they are Ford parts, you don’t go and order from Acme Fuel Line And Doughnut Shop.

    This is a little simple dumb thing to score a fuel line, and protecting the integrity of the product – I mean.. Were they asleep?

    • 0 avatar
      Volts On Fire

      By the same token, GM was quick to throw its supplier under the bus for providing front axle assemblies for the Daewoo Sonic without brake pads on the calipers. Nevermind the braindead UAW “hacks” tasked with fitting those assemblies to the vehicle, and driving the f*cking things off the line.

      Want reliable quality control? Stay away from anything affiliated with Detroit.

    • 0 avatar
      hifi

      In all fairness to the entire industry, most of the parts used on any vehicle is provided by a supplier. If it’s a production flaw, and not a design flaw of the component, chances are it’ll be linked back to a supplier. From the consumer perspective, it doesn’t make the automaker less responsible.

      To me, the question is, how quickly and how properly the automaker responds to the problem. Do they handle it promptly, or do they wait years and bury it in corporate bureaucracy? We saw it done wrong with Ford in the 70s, with Suzuki in the 80s, Toyota in the 90s and 2000s. If you sell enough cars, eventually things are going to go wrong. And it’s the corporate culture that sets brands apart. IMHO, Ford it handling it properly now.

      • 0 avatar
        C170guy

        What really of recent Ford culture though?

        Is it a culture that is quick to react once complete products begin catching fire (as they well should), or is it one that is proactive and samples/tests incoming parts for flaws?

        Ford could get the basics right a few years ago, but recently I am not seeing it. Post bailout, I am not sure they are as serious as they were- when they thought they would have to fix their own problems (and they had begun to.)

    • 0 avatar
      BrianL

      Toyota has done the same thing with its suppliers, from pedal assemblies to cam/crank shaft failures (I can’t remember which) in the Tundra.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Said it before and I’ll say it again. At one plant I’ve seen a truck take off for a big three plant and another truck take off for an Asian plant. Most of the parts plants are non-union. New unskilled labor line worker? Starts at 10-12 bucks an hour. Skilled trades like a CNC machinist or electro/pneumatic mechanic? Starting wage around 20 bucks an hour.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      “Okay, well that was predictable. Ford throws the supplier under the bus.”

      No, Ford responded truthfully and accurately to an official NHTSA investigation as Ford is required to do under law. Ford demonstrated that it has a handle on the root cause of the problem, which originated with a supplier’s manufacturing process or equipment.

      The supplier messed up – why do you think Ford should “protect” them?

  • avatar
    nikita

    I once worked for a small Ford supplier. Our primary business was aircraft fasteners. There is no way Ford could pay for aerospace quality control. We still gave them a level of testing and inspection far beyond minimum requirements set out in the contract. We won the bid by subcontracting much of the fabrication to Mexican shops, but did final inspection ourselves.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    There seems to be an assumption that there is some quality control on parts once they arrive at the assembly plant. Since you are all astute observers of assembly lines you’ll notice the parts come off the trucks in stillages or pallets, and are then fork lifted to the side of the assembly line. There an assembly line worker selects the part and fits it to the vehicle.

    As such there is no formal inspection process after the part has been loaded onto the truck at the supplier. He is responsible for final inspection.

    Sure, in the olden days we had incoming inspection, and I suppose if parts are known to be problematic it might still happen, but that is very much the exception.

    So now you can discuss what happens in today’s world, as opposed to 30 years ago.


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