An investigation and eventually a recall on snapping rear axles on Ford’s Windstar minivan wasn’t enough to save the life of Sean Bowman of Massachussetts. A 28 year-old father of two and Coast Guard veteran, Bowman’s family received an official recall notice in the mail from Ford a week after the he had died in a crash behind the wheel of his Windstar – an accident his family alleges was the direct result of a rear axle that snapped while Bowman was on his way to community college.
Bowman’s family is considering legal action against Ford, stating that the severity of the recall demanded more immediate action. “This is not your average, everyday recall. This is your rear axle can break, you can lose control of your vehicle, your wheels can fall off,” Bowman’s wife told The Associated Press.
Ford says that it fulfilled its legal requirement by notifying customers with vehicles affected by the recall.
After the story of Bowman’s death broke, Ford announced it would expand the recall to an additional 37,000 Windstar minivans, bringing the recall total to 612,000. The initial recall was only for vans in certain colder states where it was deemed corrosion was a factor in the snapping axles. The expanded recall now includes all 2003 vehicles and also now encompasses the state of Utah.
The recall itself has been a significant problem for Ford, as new axles had to be manufactured, causing a long wait for owners. As a result, Ford offered to either pay for rental vehicles for customers with affected vehicles, or to even buy back the minivans. The latter choice is proving the more cost effective for Ford, with most of the vans now quite old and their value quite low. Some customers waiting for the repair have had their vehicles parked on Ford dealer lots for over four moths.
Ford may face increasing threats of legal action over this issue, as there is likely to be a high number of recalled vehicles on the road that remain unrepaired. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 70 percent of recalled vehicles are repaired within the first 18 months, however, that number is generally much lower when recalls are issued for older vehicles.
UPDATE: The Ford Windstar is now under investigation by NHTSA for rusting subframe issues. Click here to read the story.