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Ford overruled safety advice, reports says

Engineers had sought recall over door latches

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Ford Motor Co. overruled its own safety engineers' recommendations to recall up to 4.1 million pickups and sport utility vehicles after they had found substandard door latches, court documents indicated.

A Ford safety engineering team determined in March 2000 that door latches on certain 1997-2000 light trucks did not meet federal safety standards. The trucks include the popular F-150, F-250, Expedition, and Lincoln Navigator models, according to internal Ford memos made public as part of civil court cases.

After the recommendations, Ford ordered immediate design changes for future vehicles. But the automaker decided against a recall, which could have cost up to $527 million. The company determined instead that the latches could pass a rarely used alternative compliance test, the Detroit News reported yesterday.

At least 16 product-liability lawsuits filed against the automaker contend latch failures led to fatal accidents involving doors that flew open. Many have been settled, but others are pending.

Federal safety officials are reviewing allegations that Ford skirted federal laws by failing to recall the 4.1 million vehicles and alert the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the latch issue.

Ford maintains the door latches are safe and in compliance with federal laws.

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