Ford Motor Company finds itself on the receiving end of a lawsuit concerning the simplest part of any car or truck: the lug nuts.
In this case, nuts that swell and delaminate not long after purchase, rendering the vehicle’s lug wrench useless in the event of a flat tire, or when the owners decide to swap their seasonal rubber. The lawsuit, filed by Hagens Berman Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, seeks class-action status. Hundreds of claimants have put their name to the suit.
Millions of Ford vehicles dating back to 2010, including the popular Fusion and F-150, feature two-piece lug nuts with a steel core and chrome, aluminum, or stainless cap for appearance purposes, the lawsuit claims. That outer cap can swell, potentially endangering owners’ lives and wallets.
Hagens Berman claims the issue impacts owners of Ford Fusion, Escape, Flex, Focus, F-150 and F-350 vehicles. In some cases, the issue isn’t discovered until the owner attempts to change a tire on the side of a road, only to find that the lug wrench won’t fit over the nut.
The suit also claims roadside assistance crews sometimes find the nuts impossible to remove, as the nuts don’t swell in a uniform manner. This means more costs saddled on the owner in the form of a tow to a service center.
“At best this defect leads to consumers paying more than $30 per wheel at a repair shop just to get their tire off, and then have to buy new lug nuts,” said drivers’ counsel Steve Berman in a statement. “At worst, Ford owners could quickly end up in an emergency situation on a busy roadway, stranded with a flat tire and no way to change it.”
Contained in the suit is an accusation of post-recession cost-cutting. Ford could have avoided the issue by choosing solid stainless steel nuts, but that would increase the cost of manufacturing the vehicle, Hagens Berman states. Still, the capped nuts initially looked nice when contrasted with alloy or chrome-plated wheels.
A quick search of online Ford message boards shows countless complaints relating to swollen nuts on post-2010 vehicles, especially the Fusion. Other complaints have found their way to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The suit, representing drivers in all 50 U.S. states, accuses Ford of violating state consumer protection laws. The claimants demand the automaker recoup them for individual costs associated with the swollen nuts.
Ford hasn’t commented on the suit.