Automaker hiding problem, they say
December 13, 2002
BY JEFFREY MCCRACKEN
DETROIT FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Two disgruntled Taurus SHO owners have filed a lawsuit alleging Ford Motor Co. concealed a defect with the car's high-performance V8 engine that causes extensive engine damage and expensive repairs.
The lawsuit, filed this week in Chicago, seeks class-action status to gather in other Taurus SHO owners with the same problem. It estimates there are 10,000 potential plaintiffs.
The suit charges Ford with two counts of fraud and one count of breach of implied warranty, essentially saying Ford sold a vehicle not "fit for ordinary driving."
"We just want relief from Ford. We'd like to see them establish some sort of escrow account for those of us that repaired the engine before the problem (damaged the engine) or those that have had to spend anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 after the fact," said Larry Eck, of Wheaton, Ill., owner of a 1997 Taurus SHO.
The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount of damages. It says Taurus SHO owners have spent $500 to fix the problem -- a slipping camshaft sprocket -- or thousands of dollars in engine repairs after the camshaft slipped and damaged the engine.
Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes released a statement: "We have not received the lawsuit so cannot comment on any of the specifics. We are aware of the concern on a small number of SHO engines. Our investigation indicates the condition is not widespread. Many vehicle repairs were covered under warranty and we have been working with our supplier to reduce the repair costs for the small number of engines potentially affected by the condition."
The automaker declined to comment further.
A Free Press report in October showed that approximately 200 former and current SHO owners have launched and contributed to a Web site called www.V8SHO.com
devoted to detailing the problem with Taurus SHOs made from 1996 to 1999. In May, a Ford employee and SHO owner sent copies of documented failures or complaints from 190 SHO owners to Ford customer service, Ford engineering and Chairman and CEO William Clay Ford Jr.
About 19,730 SHOs were made from 1996 to 1999. The Taurus SHO was a limited-production, high-performance version of the Taurus family sedan, third-best-selling car in the country. The SHO -- for Super High Output -- differed from the everyday Taurus, with a pricier interior, stiffer suspension, tighter handling and a powerful 3.4-liter V8 Yamaha engine that could zip up to 140 m.p.h.
While Yamaha assembled the engine in Japan, Ford built the engine components in Ontario. In a 1996 Car and Driver review of the SHO, Ford took credit for the development of its V8 engine.
That engine is at the heart of the lawsuit. The allegation in the lawsuit and by disgruntled SHO owners is that the camshaft -- which allows the engine to get gas and air -- slips while the car is running and bends or snaps the engine's pistons and valves.
If the car is going about 60 m.p.h. or more, the whole engine block can be ruined.
Although the problem typically arises at around 65,000 miles, SHO customers say the sprocket has slipped as early as 40,000 miles -- still beyond the engine's standard 36,000-mile warranty.
The lawsuit says "Ford represented in advertising that the SHO V8 engine could go 100,000 miles between tune-ups."
It alleges Ford "knew the camshaft was defective by early 1996," but intentionally "misrepresented the cause of the problem to any owner who inquired."