DETROIT - Former Ford Motor Co. employees allege in a lawsuit that company supervisors ordered them to sell recalled Firestone tires, damaged vehicles and suspect vehicle parts to companies that would sell the merchandise to consumers.
Ford labeled the allegations in the lawsuit "absurd" and "unfounded."
The 75 plaintiffs are former employees of Environ Inc., a Ford subsidiary in Dearborn, Mich., that the automaker sold to DST Industries Inc. in August 2000. Environ's business was to recycle Ford's test and prototype vehicles, shred and recycle tires and sell vehicle parts and entire vehicles to salvage yards.
In a lawsuit challenging their dismissal as a result of Environ's sale, the former employees allege that Environ violated Michigan public policy and federal statute in the disposal of damaged parts and vehicles. The suit was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit.
For example, the lawsuit contends that "substantial numbers'' of recalled Firestone Wilderness tires "were sold and sent to salvage yards, stores and other entities for sale to the public.''
Similarly, the former employees claim that 2,000 flood-damaged vehicles equipped with recalled Firestone Wilderness tires and assembled at Ford's Louisville, Ky., plant "were released for sale to consumers.'' The plant assembles the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer.
The lawsuit also alleges that experimental and prototype parts, including safety-related parts such as brake components, were sold to salvage yards and businesses that would re-sell the merchandise to consumers.
Ford closed Environ after the company lost approximately 60 percent of its contracts to lower-cost competitors, said Kathleen Vokes, Ford spokeswoman.
"Environ and its union collectively bargained a mutually agreeable closure arrangement," Vokes said. "Employees received severance packages based upon seniority, even though no severance package was called for by the contract with the United Steelworkers."