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Lawsuit Claims Ford Super Duty Truck Roofs Weren’t Tested, Easily Collapse

Ford is accused of weakening the Super Duty's roof and never testing its safety in the real world.
2016 Ford F-Series Super Duty

A lawsuit filed against Ford accuses the automaker of not testing, then substantially weakening the roofs of its F-series Super Duty pickup trucks after putting them into production. These, along with postponing a safety improvement for over a decade, allegedly allow the trucks’ roofs to collapse in rollover crashes.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the suit accuses Ford of altering the design of its heavy-duty pickup‘s roofs in a way that saved money at the cost of increasing the likelihood of a cave-in. The weak roofs are estimated to affect approximately 5.2 million trucks sold or leased from model years 1999 through 2016.

Citing a previous case, Ott v. Ford Motor Co., the suit states that Ford significantly reduced the thickness of the metal used in the first-generation Super Duty’s roof throughout development, and removed at least one major reinforcement. After putting the truck on sale in 1998, Ford continued to cut costs by thinning the metal in the truck’s A-pillar, roof bows, windshield inner header, and B-pillars on extended-cab models. The changes are estimated to have saved only $3.85 per truck, but compromised roof strength, leading to early failure according to a third-party test conducted in July 2003.

“Third-party tests were conducted on the cab roof crush strength of its pickups for purposes of litigation, the results showed that the roof crushed at a weight 800 pounds lower than Ford indicated it would in its own published results, according to the complaint,” the law firm said in a statement. The same testing found that “the roof strength of its F-250 SuperDuty [sic] truck is weaker that its smaller and lighter pickup trucks—the F-150 and Ranger,” according to Ott v. Ford Motor Co.

2008-2010 Ford Super Duty with a crushed roof after a rollover crash. Hagens Berman

Ford claimed to have conducted computer simulations that proved the trucks’ roof strength in lieu of physical testing but was apparently unable to provide evidence of conducting such a simulation, according to filings in Ott v. Ford Motor Co. In the lawsuit that led to a $1.7 billion verdict against Ford in August, proceedings also revealed Ford had designed a stronger roof that was ready in 2004 but wasn’t implemented until the 2017 model year. According to The Wall Street Journal, Ford is aware of 83 incidents of crushed Super Duty roofs, and 162 lawsuits on the matter.

The firm litigating the class-action suit encourages anyone who bought or leased a 1999 to 2016 model year Ford Super Duty to join the suit through its website.

When contacted, Ford didn’t specifically address the claims made in the suit, but stated: “The class-action claim you’re referring to appears to simply follow a playbook of allegations and assertions from another case in which there’s been no finding of fact. […] Ford recently requested a new trial in the case and we’re looking forward to showing that these trucks have been and are well engineered and safe.”

Ford also claimed it was not allowed to present a defense in the August 2022 ruling against it (despite deliberately causing a mistrial according to the judge per Courtroom View Network), and that neither the judge nor jury made any pronouncements on the safety of the truck in question. Ford stated it seeks a new trial, and claims every similar suit so far has been ruled in its favor.

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