Dorese Ramsey, Midlothian mother of five, needed a combination of form and function when she was shopping for a vehicle three years ago.
She decided on a used white Ford Expedition, the same kind model her husband drives.
"I liked this big car," she said. But three years later, she doesn’t like how it looks.
The paint on her SUV has been bubbling and peeling, making for a cosmetically challenged ride.
"It first started as bubbling paint," she said. "Eventually the whole thing got worse"
Ramsey is not alone.
She found thousands of other car owners with a similar peeling problem by just performing an Internet search, and she even landed on a Facebook page dedicated to Ford-Mercury peeling paint problems, where she said hundreds of disturbed vehicle owners go for advice on the bubbling, peeling paint.
The problem, according to former consultants to the auto industry, is a business model that puts paint suppliers in charge of quality control inside carmakers’ plants. That, they allege, has resulted in two major problems now bedeviling car owners: thin paint, and corroded parts that lead to peeling paint.
It’s a problem that Steve Gaiski, a chemical engineer and former consultant to the auto industry, says Ford Motor Company knows all too well.
"Several years back they hired us to do a study of all their facilities. And so we did and came back and said my gosh, do you realize you have thin paint in all your facilities?" Gaiski said.
To be clear, the problem isn’t just with Ford. Gaiski says other automakers face the same issue. But none have been hit harder with complaints, Gaiski says, than Ford. After Gaiski and his colleagues raised the issue with Ford, he says the carmaker had no interest in the research it paid for. Three weeks after raising a red flag, Gaiski says his company’s contract was terminated. Ultimately, the company sent him a “cease and desist” letter.
"I've been instructed by Ford basically, ‘stop contacting us,’" he said. "Now, as of 2011, what's happening ... it's ridiculous!"
Ford is no stranger to the problems of peeling paint: in recent years, it has issued technical Service Bulletins, TSBs, on a number of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles that suffered from “aluminum corrosion” which led to ‘bubbling to blistering under the paint”
Nationally, a problem involving Crown Victoria police cruisers in dozens of cities led to another TSB and repairs. Internationally, in Australia, one shade of blue paint on a Ford prompted a recall.
Consumers here, however, say they’ve only received excuses from Ford. Three Ford owners who met Gaiski via the FaceBook page came to show Target 5 the peeling paint on their vehicles: a four-year old Expedition, a seven-year old Explorer, and a nine-year old Escape that its owner says started peeling paint at one-year old. The three owners shared the range of excuses they say they’ve heard from Ford:
"They say it could be bird droppings,” said Deb McGarry, the Expedition driver. “There are no birds in my car- only kids.”
“They kept telling me,’Oh, it’s just all the rust spots and rock chips you’re seeing from rail dust near the railroad tracks,’” Escape driver Kristine Oldham told Target 5. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t live near railroad tracks!’”
Donald Kroll, who says he just found the paint problem on his wife’s Explorer two months ago, said, “ It's their way of saying it's not our fault."
A Ford spokesperson would not comment on Steve Gaiski’s allegations, but offered the folliwng statement to Target 5 regarding Ford paint:
Ford vehicles, including the Expedition, offer high-quality paint that is very durable. Ford continually monitors its vehicles and is confident paint on our vehicles performs at or beyond customer expectations. When customers have questions, we work quickly to resolve their concerns.
Finally, one bit of good news for the Ramsey family of Midlothian. After questions about how their case was handled by Ford corporate and at the local level, the dealer reversed course and offered to paint the problem area on their Expedition, at no cost to the family.