Months after U.S. government recommended it, Ford to recall 1.2 million vehicles in public relations gaffe  Ford Motor has emerged from near-insolvency to beat analysts' expectations and soar to profitability over the past 16 months. Nonetheless, the company faces a major public relations fiasco as it announced it will recall over 1 million vehicles on reports they could have defective air bags.

Defective air bags have already prompted the Detroit-based automaker to recall a number of vehicles, but this latest announcement is much larger in scope than previous ones, according to CBS News. Ford is expanding a recall of its very popular F-150 pickup trucks to include 1.2 million vehicles that may have the defective air bags and could result in severe injuries.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the recall on Thursday and it covers F-150s built for the 2004 and 2005 model years, along with those assembled during a part of the 2006 model year. The recall also affects 16,000 LT pickups manufactured by Lincoln, a subsidiary of the automaker.

According to reports, a problem in the wiring of the cars could potentially cause air bags to deploy unexpectedly. Safety and health advocates warn that the immense pressure from an air bag erupting is enough to seriously injure someone and could potentially cause neck and spinal cord injuries.

The latest recall was prompted by consumer advocates and government safety agencies. In February, Ford said it would recall 150,000 of its F-150 models, but resisted the government's suggestion to include the additional vehicles in that recall. However, the company has since backpedaled as the regulatory agency stepped in to ensure the vehicles are deemed safe for operators.

The news could not come at a worse time for the company as it experiences sales growth and a new image as a reliable manufacturer of automobiles. Ford's F-150 pickup trucks are the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. The F-150 accounts for nearly 65 percent of the sales of the F-Series.

In a statement, Ford said it plans to notify all owners of the cars next month that they should take their trucks to a dealer who will replace the air bag in the steering wheel free of charge; that repair will take about a half a day to finish. In 2006 and 2007, Ford engineers made changes to the way wiring was installed in the cars, preventing such problems from occurring, the company said.

In a January letter, the NHTSA said the agency had become aware of 269 separate cases in which air bags were deployed in the F-150s without any prompting by a crash. Of those instances, there were 98 reports of injuries, with some being classified as serious. Though Ford had fought the agency on its recommendation that 1.2 million vehicles be recalled, the NHTSA ultimately decided to force the company to do so, affirming "the potential for loss of vehicular control poses an unreasonable risk to safety."

For its part, Ford said it would recall the potentially affected vehicles. The recall, according to Ford, was made "to reassure customers of Ford's commitment to safety, and to eliminate any possible customer confusion."
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