Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Ford is recalling about 2 million F-150 pickup trucks in North America because the seat belts can spark and cause fires.
The recall, which covers trucks from the 2015 through 2018 model years, comes about one month after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating fires in the pickups, which are the top-selling vehicles in the United States.
Ford said Thursday that it has 23 reports of smoke or fire in U.S. and Canadian trucks, but it's not aware of any injuries. The NHTSA began investigating in early August after getting five fire reports, including three reports that trucks were destroyed.
According to Ford, seat belt pretensioners can generate excessive sparks when they tighten before a crash. That can ignite gases inside a support pillar between the front and rear seats, causing insulation and carpet to catch fire. The Regular Cab and SuperCrew Cab trucks were built between March 12, 2014, and Aug. 23, 2018, according to documents posted Thursday by the NHTSA.
The seat belt pretensioners were made by ZF-TRW and now-defunct air bag and seat belt maker Takata, which was bought by Joyson, another auto parts supplier.
To repair the trucks, dealers will remove insulation and install heat-resistant tape. They also will remove remnants of wiring tape and modify interior panels in Regular Cab trucks. Affected owners will be notified starting Sept. 24.
In one of the complaints filed with the U.S. government, an owner in Grand Rapids, Mich., told the NHTSA that July 7, a deer ran into the driver's side of a pickup, causing minor damage. The side air bags inflated, and after five to 10 minutes, a passenger noticed a fire on the bottom of the post between the front and rear doors where the seat belts are located. “The truck went up in complete flames in a matter of minutes and is a complete loss,” the owner wrote.
People who file complaints are not identified in the NHTSA database.
Ford said in a filing Thursday with U.S. securities regulators that the recall will cost about $140 million and will be counted in third-quarter results.