Any company that grows to the point of being a global powerhouse is bound to have some skeletons in its closet. When it comes to the automotive industry, though, those skeletons can become figuratively real rather than metaphorical given the dangers automobiles can potentially represent.
For the Ford Motor Company, growth and expansion have always been a major part of profits and popularity. Ever since Henry Ford brought the world's first affordable automobile to the masses, Ford has been cranking out as many vehicles as possible.
But sometimes, those vehicles leave the factory with massive defects—and Ford hasn't always been upfront or honest when it comes to fixing their mistakes. Keep scrolling for 15 lies that the Ford Motor Company told over the years that led to enormous recalls, world-famous lawsuits, and plenty of consumer mistrust.
15 The Pinto
By far the most famous scandal that caused massive damage to Ford's reputation surrounded the combustion-prone Pinto.
After reports emerged that Pintos were liable to light up after any light rear-end collision, Ford put off a recall and issued an infamous internal memo that made it clear the company didn't think it was worth spending $11 per car to do a recall that might save lives.
14 Emissions Cheating
Everyone knows by now that Volkswagen has been caught by regulators in multiple countries because of its emissions-cheating software. But fewer consumers realize that multiple other brands—and not just VAG subsidiaries—have been caught cheating emissions tests with their diesel vehicles, as well, such as Ford with their F-250 and F-350 Super Duty pickup trucks.
13 Faulty Ignition Switches
In the late-1980s and early-1990s, Ford struggled with a massive problem that involved their ignition switches. It should be obvious that customers expect their cars to run without catching on fire, but the ignition switches were faulty enough that they could cause just that. Once again, though, Ford knew about the problem long before they issued an eventual recall that covered nearly 8,000,000 vehicles.
12 The Explorer and Firestone
Probably the scandal that most people who keep an eye on the automotive industry would next associate with Ford surrounds the Explorer SUV and its tendency to tip over. Ford tried to pin the blame on Firestone, the company that provided the tires that Explorers left the factory with, though Firestone argued Ford had instructed their customers to under inflate the tires, leading to blowouts.
11 "$5 Work Day"
Many drivers on the road mistakenly assume that Henry Ford invented the automobile. In actuality, he pioneered the use of the assembly line to mass-produce vehicles and lower prices for consumers. But assembly lines required massive workforces, which Ford enticed with the famous promise of the "$5 Work Day.” Really though, employees could only earn up to $5 with lots of incentives, not their base salaries.
10 Carbon Monoxide Contamination
As if the Ford Explorer didn't already have a questionable reputation in the minds of anyone who remembers the first generation in more recent years, Ford has had to deal with problems involving carbon monoxide contamination from the exhaust poisoning people in the passenger compartment – including police officers in their vehicles.
9 F-150 Brakes
The Ford F-150 is one of the best-selling vehicles in the world, but when it comes to economies of scale, problems can arise quickly.
In the case of the F-150, a brake recall involving brake fluid leaking from the main reservoir into the brake booster became prevalent. Ford issued a recall for model years 2013 and 2014, but many who own Ford's trucks built between 2013 and 2018 reported similar problems without receiving a recall or compensation from the company.
8 The Disappointing Edsel
Ford executives misled the public back in the late-1950s with promises about the forthcoming Edsel sub-brand. Edsel was supposed to sell the most advanced, futuristic car in the world with the best styling. But the public quickly found out that the eventual products were overpriced, unreliable, and not too good-looking.
7 1970s Transmissions Slipping
By the 1970s, automatic transmissions were beginning to become more standard equipment in all kinds of cars and trucks. But Ford struggled with their automatic gearbox, which had a tendency to slip out of ‘park' at the wrong time. The placard above was supposed to help people avoid the problem, even though it really wasn't their fault at all.
6 Embroiled With Takata
The Takata airbag recall has affected just about every automotive manufacturer, including Ford. Of course, the problem isn't just that the airbags might injure passengers in the car randomly, but also that the resultant recalls were so widespread that many owners had to wait months or even years to get their cars fixed, including Ford owners.
Fordlândia was a near-mythical concept by Ford to build an ideal city that would inspire the world to become as efficient as his automotive factories. But building a city in the middle of Brazil didn't quite work out, and the city in the middle of the Amazon rainforest was never able to provide the rubber that was actually Henry Ford's aim all along.
4 The C-Max Hybrid
The modern automotive industry is still trying to catch up to hybrid and full-electric technology, and Ford is no exception. But the company did itself a huge disservice with the release of the C-Max Hybrid, which was intended to be an affordable, efficient vehicle.
Unfortunately, the C-Max Hybrid could barely eke out better MPGs than its gas-powered counterparts, despite Ford's best marketing efforts.
The Ford Motor Company became famous for introducing the concept of "Paternalism" in the workplace. Yet just like any fast food restaurant with the word “fresh" in the name, and how it doesn't always mean there's fresh food, "Paternalism" ended up being less like a real family bond and more like feudal serfdom. Of course, it was Henry Ford at the top commanding his employees to act and work exactly how he desired.
2 Defective Fuel Pumps
Ford has clearly struggled over the years with massive recalls. But all those mistakes should have been lessons learned—instead, it seems like Ford has just kept cruising along hoping problems won't blow up (pun fully intended).
In the last year, reports emerged that Ford's Focus models have a fuel pump issue that can cause cars to stall while in motion, leading to a recall of over a million vehicles.
1 Ties With Germany
Obviously, no car company wants its customers to think that its founder had close ties with Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. But Henry Ford, long a fan of controlling his massive workforce with a sort of secret police, saw methods that he recognized in the German political powerhouse of the era.
Sources: Corporate Research Project, The Center for Auto Safety, and Wikipedia.