A Winnipeg grandfather wants to know why his minivan wasn't included in a massive Ford recall after the vehicle started falling apart during a road trip last month.
Wayne Douglas Weedon, 69, said the bracket holding the third back seat of his 2004 Ford Freestar fell off while he was driving with his wife and three grandchildren to Lac du Bonnet on July 22.
Weedon said he was driving no more than 30km/h on a bumpy gravel road when he heard a loud noise coming from one of the rear tires.
"I stopped immediately and I thought what the heck is going on here?" he told CBC News.
Weedon said he got out of the vehicle and saw the seat bracket and a rusted metal plate in the well of a back tire.
"The tire was rubbing on it," he said, adding he's relieved the plate didn't puncture the tire.
"It could have been a lot worse," he said. "My wife is very concerned because we had our three grandchildren with us at the time and what if this happened on the highway? Luckily I wasn't using the third seat at the time."
Weedon said when he got home he did some research and found out his minivan had been the subject of a recall in 2013. He took the van in for repairs at the Birchwood Ford dealership, where he bought it in 2004.
He said at first he was told by the service manager that the cost of the repairs would not be covered by Ford because there were no recalls on his van.
Weedon was surprised.
Manitoba not in 'salt belt region'?
"They said Manitoba wasn't included in the salt belt region because we do not use salt here. I said 'Wait a minute, Winnipeg puts down 100 per cent salt sometimes!'"
The term "salt belt" refers to regions in the United States where large amounts of salt are applied to streets during the winter season.
"What's strange is that this was a regional recall," he said. "So I said I am not happy. I mean, if there's a problem every vehicle should be checked for that problem."
According to the Transport Canada website, 38,181 2004 Ford Freestars in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador were affected in the 2013 recall.
The site details the problem Weedon faced and what Ford dealers were to do to correct it:
- On certain vehicles originally sold or currently registered in areas of heavy road salt usage during winter months (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador), corrosion can occur at the latch for the forward portion of the third row seat. Continued corrosion in this area may result in the inability to fully latch the forward portion of the seat into its seating position, which could increase the risk of injury in a crash. Note: Seat belt anchorages and permanent seat anchorages, which are at the rear of the seat, are unaffected. Correction: Dealers will install new third row seat latch striker mounting brackets which relocate the seat latch strikers from the potentially corroded area. In addition, dealers will install overlay panels on the exterior of the wheel wells to prevent entry of water and corrosive elements.
Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia were not mentioned in the recall list.
Transport Canada said the company is responsible for identifying which regions are included in the recall.
"In this instance Ford issued a recall of the Freestar in regions where corrosion was most likely to be a primary factor," a spokesperson with Transport Canada said in a statement to CBC News.
"Transport Canada has been advised by Ford that Freestar owners with vehicles exhibiting symptoms consistent with the recall [who are outside of the recall area] can ask dealers to call the Special Service Support Centre to request the same service action."
Elizabeth Weigandt, the safety communications manager at Ford, told CBC News that decisions made about recalls are driven by the data available.
"I can just say that safety is our top priority and our decisions are based on the available data, and when the data indicates a safety recall is needed we move quickly on behalf of our customers," Weigandt said.
However, Weigandt could not say why Manitoba was not included in the recall because the data wasn't in front of her. She also couldn't answer questions about why the Winnipeg dealership was reluctant at first to repair the vehicle under the recall.
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Weedon said after numerous complaints to Ford he finally got a call back from the dealership on Monday, and was told his van would be repaired at no cost to him.
An employee with the Birchwood Ford dealership told CBC that Weedon's vehicle was not listed in the "regional recall," but that his concerns were addressed through the "established exception process."
Weedon is happy his car has been replaired, but he wants to know why the minivans in Manitoba weren't included in the recall. He believes it shouldn't matter where the car is registered or bought.
"If there is a problem, every vehicle should be checked for that problem even if you're in Vancouver!"
"Ford would need to be diligent"
"It's rare but it does happen," said George Iny, director of the Automobile Protection Association.
"Occasionally, recalls are limited to one part of the country, and typically if it's a corrosion problem, a car maker that's maybe trying to control their cost on the recall will announce it for provinces where there is regular use of salt on the roads in winter," Iny said.
Iny said there are critics who are against regional recalls altogether, but he says it's too early to say in this case whether he thinks Ford should expand the recall.
"Ford would have to be diligent if it has more events like this," Iny said. "If there are other cases, then it would be an opportunity to ask Ford to expand the recall."
Iny said the onus is on the automobile maker to issue the recalls and assess the safety risks but he also said Transport Canada could do more to address the safety concerns of consumers.
"The government relies on the car makers and sometimes our concern at the APA is that the relationship is too, I won't say cozy, but they're too trusting in the car maker," Iny said.
Weedon said he's sharing his story because he wants other drivers of the same vehicle to be aware of the potential problems.
He said at the very least, drivers of the 2004 Freestar should be sent a letter from Ford warning them about the recall in the other provinces.
"What they should have done is make all owners of these vehicles aware of the problem because I wasn't even aware that there was a problem.
And Ford admitted they never sent me a letter because my vehicle was not part of the recall."