The complaint for this class action makes the unnerving allegation that the driveshaft coupling in Ford Transit vans can fail, causing the driveshaft to fall out of the vehicle, pierce the passenger cabin, and/or “pole vault” the vehicle into the air. Oh—and that at the same time, the brakes and engine power may fail, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
The class for this action includes all persons or entities who purchased or leased a 2015-2017 model of Ford Transit in Kentucky for purposes other than personal, family, or household use. It excludes persons who have suffered personal injuries as a result of the alleged defects or failure.
The van’s driveshaft flexible coupling, or flex disc, is a joint positioned between the transmission and the driveshaft used to transmit rotational torque from the engine to the driveshaft, as part of moving the vehicle. The disc is made of flexible rubber to allow for some misalignment and reduce driveline vibration. It has six holes, three for bolting it to the transmission side and three for bolting it to the driveshaft.
The problem, according to the complaint, is that the rubber can wear out and crack, and, the complaint says, “[w]hen the flex disc fails, it fails catastrophically” causing the driveshaft “violently to tear away from the transmission, which can result in severe damage [to] surrounding Vehicle components” such as brakes and fuel lines and creating a risk that the disconnected driveshaft “will ‘catch’ on the ground beneath the Vehicle” with perilous results.
Plaintiff A. Blair Enterprises owns eleven Ford Transit vans and alleges that two experienced flex disc failure, one in October 2016 and one in November 2016. In both cases, the complaint says, the part failed while the vans were traveling on the highway, causing the driveshaft to drop to the pavement, creating extensive damage to the vans, putting other drivers in danger, and requiring repairs that cost over $10,000 per vehicle. According to the complaint, Blair then had the flex disks in its other vans checked and found that all showed signs of impending failure, requiring replacement at a cost of $390 per vehicle. Blair asked Ford to pay for the damage to the vehicles and replacement of the flex discs, but, according to the complaint, Ford offered only partial payment.
On June 28, 2017, Ford issued a safety recall because of the flex discs, but, the complaint says, it simply replaced worn discs with the same defective part. The complaint alleges that Ford knew of the problem with the discs before the vehicles were sold, because of its knowledge of automotive engineering and its pre-release testing, and later because of field data, replacement part sales, customer complaints, data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Office of Defect Investigation, and postings online, yet it advertised the vans as “tough,” “safe,” and “durable.”
The complaint claims that Ford has no solution to the problem, that the recall requires customers to replace the disc every 30,000, and that Ford will not reimburse owners for past replacements or for other expenses incurred via the disc’s failure. It further claims that the statute of limitations should be tolled because owners and lessees had no way of knowing about the defect before the part failed.