Ford Settles Again With Owners of Its Bronco II
Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it reached a new class-action settlement with owners of its controversial Bronco II sport-utility vehicle that will provide new safety warnings and up to $200 for repairs and modifications.
The deal, which would be made available to about 658,000 Bronco II owners in the United States, replaces a settlement that was thrown out by a federal judge two years ago because of excessive attorneys fees.
U.S. District Judge Morey Sear in New Orleans, who will consider the new settlement, rejected the previous offer because he believed it gave Bronco owners “effectively zero” while giving plaintiff lawyers $4 million.
For years, Ford has battled lawsuits alleging that the compact Bronco II is inherently prone to roll over because of its short wheelbase and high center of gravity.
Ford stopped producing the two-door Bronco II in 1990, but has vigorously defended the vehicle, blaming rollovers on poor driving or unsafe modifications to the vehicles.
About 260 people have died in Bronco II rollover crashes, and Sear in 1995 disclosed that Ford had paid $113 million to settle injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
The new settlement, submitted to Sear on Tuesday, does not affect personal injury suits against Ford. Instead, it resolves class-action claims that the alleged design defects reduced the vehicles’ resale values.
Ford would provide owners with new warning labels, owners manuals and videocassettes that show situations in which sport-utility vehicles can roll over, such as in sharp turns or abrupt maneuvers.
Ford also would give owners $100 toward the cost of replacing worn-out shock absorbers and other suspension components. Ford also would pay up to $200 to owners who make certain modifications.
“The settlement agreement reiterates a message that we’ve communicated for years, that the Bronco II is a safe vehicle when driven with common sense and accordance with safe driving practices,” Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Flake said.
She declined to specify the overall cost of the settlement to Ford and added that the auto maker has not agreed to any specified level of attorneys fees in the deal.
Plaintiff lawyers have said in court documents that they will seek less than $6 million in fees from Ford, but the final amount will be determined by Sear.
Ford shares were unchanged at $32.375 on the New York Stock Exchange.
On Wednesday, Ford reported a $1.2-billion rise in fourth-quarter profit on earnings of $1 a share. The results reflected a total of $132 million in special charges, including costs related to Ford’s decision to cut 3,500 jobs last year.