WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. and U.S. safety regulators have agreed to a greatly expanded recall of the best-selling vehicle in North America, the Ford F-150 pickup truck.
The recall is for a possible short circuit that could cause airbags to deploy unexpectedly and involves nearly 1.2 million F-150s and some Lincoln Mark LT vehicles, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The recall covers F-150s from the 2004 to 2006 model years.
Previously, 144,000 of the pickup trucks were recalled. The expansion comes after talks between the automaker and safety regulators in Washington.
Ford, in an e-mailed statement, said its review found the airbag deployments were linked to a "wiring chafe" condition.
"If a wiring chafe occurs, the airbag warning lamp will illuminate for an extended period of time prior to any risk of deployment, alerting owners to service their vehicle," Ford said. "We urge all of our customers to seek service immediately for an airbag warning lamp that is illuminated."
Notifications in May
Ford said it would notify customers in May and will ask them to take affected vehicles to their dealers for repair at no cost. Ford said the repair involves a replacement of an airbag wire in the steering wheel. Repairs should take less than half a day.
The automaker added that it is not aware of any accidents stemming from the problems.
"In most cases, the reported deployments have occurred within the first few seconds following vehicle start-up," the statement said. "Ford is aware of one instance where a driver exited a slowly moving vehicle following a deployment in a driveway."
NHTSA chief David Strickland said in a statement: "We are pleased that Ford shares our commitment to safety."
In February, Ford said in a response to safety regulators, "the condition does not present an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety" but agreed to the recall of 144,000 F-150s.
Today, Ford said it maintains its previous statement on the issue not being an "unreasonable risk," but agreed to the expanded recall "to reassure customers of Ford's commitment to safety and to eliminate any possible customer confusion."
The vehicles were the subject of 323 consumer complaints for airbag deployments resulting in 66 injuries, according to a January 2010 posting on the NHTSA Web site.
The reported injuries include a loss of consciousness as a result of the airbag deployment, a broken tooth, cuts to the arms and face, and abrasions and contusions.
Ford's April 11 letter to NHTSA said drivers were typically able to maintain vehicle control.
Ford cooperated during the study of the airbag issue throughout the process, NHTSA said.
Reuters, Neil Roland, and Philip Nussel contributed to this report.