According to the New York Times, Ford has announced it will recall about 33,000 2013 C-Max models after tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found the cars did not meet the minimum federal safety standards for head protection in a crash. The vehicles affected by the recall were built in Wayne, Mich., between Jan. 19, 2012, and June 26, 2013. They do not have the optional panoramic roof. The automaker said it was not aware of any injuries related to the problem.
According to a statement released over the weekend, Ford will install “a plastic energy absorber” between the headliner and the roof on each side of the vehicle to provide more cushioning. Ford claims it wasn’t clear why the standard system wasn’t adequate. The failure was detected by the safety agency while testing to see whether the C-Max meets a portion of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 201 that deals with reducing injuries from cranial contact with the interior of the roof during a crash.
Because there are so many safety standards and so many models to review, the agency long ago concluded it could not conduct tests of all of them. Instead, automakers certify that they meet the standards. Then, NHTSA does spot checks like the one that found the problem with the C-Max. Surprisingly, automakers are not penalized when compliance problems are found “if the manufacturer had reason to believe, based on the exercise of due care, that it had complied with the FMVSS and if it takes timely action to address a non-compliance once it is identified,” according to a statement from the agency. Beginning in September 1998, automakers were required to provide the type of head protection specified in Standard 201. The requirement followed the agency’s conclusion that doing nothing would result in almost 2,200 deaths and almost 13,600 “moderate to critical” injuries each year.