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Ford to appeal judge's crash test order

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Ford to appeal judge's crash test order, sanctions

Reuters, 03.16.04, 6:17 PM ET

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Federal Regulations United States

Legislation Automobiles

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. plans to appeal an Illinois state judge's decision to order a new crash test to determine how well a trunk liner prevents fuel leaks during police car crashes, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Judge Lloyd Cueto, presiding over an Illinois class action involving Ford Crown Victoria cars used by police departments across the United States, also found that Ford's mailing of a brochure touting the liner's effectiveness and questioning tests conducted by the city of Dallas that found otherwise was deceptive.

"Ford's actions were not inadvertant," Cueto said in an order entered on March 11. "This was not a mistake, but rather a deliberate act by Ford Motor Company."

Cueto ordered Ford to perform a 75-mile-per-hour crash test no later than May 15 and to pay $62,217.10 in attorney fees. He serves the 20th judicial circuit in southwest Illinois.

The ruling and Ford's response was the latest in a dispute over Crown Victoria police cars, which have been involved in the deaths of at least 16 police officers.

Ford in June 2003 began selling a "trunk pack" -- a reinforced plastic bin designed to keep police equipment from puncturing the fuel tanks of Crown Victorias in a crash.

In July, Dallas officials said the pack actually caused significant leaks in two crash tests. At the time, Ford called the Dallas report irresponsible.

Ford then mailed the brochure titled "Setting the record straight on Dallas" to more than 30,000 police customers. The brochure said the Dallas tests included packs loaded with objects not typically found in police car trunks and equipment that was altered and positioned to produce a failure.

The mailing to Illinois class members was unintentional and an honest mistake, Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said. The auto maker also conducted a successful 75-mile-per-hour crash test of the liner in November with 200 pounds of police equipment, she said.

Copyright 2004, Reuters News Service

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