Ford recalls 2 million of its top-selling F-150 pickups due to fire risk

Ford is recalling nearly 2 million of its popular F-150 pickups due to a problem with seatbelt pretensioners that could result in smoke, and possibly even a fire inside the vehicle.

The F-150 is part of Ford's broader F-Series line-up of full-size trucks that collectively make up the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., with demand growing sharply over the last several years.

The problem involves a device known as a pretensioner. It uses a small, pyrotechnic charge, much like those found in airbags. But, in this case, they are designed to cinch a passenger's seatbelt tight when a crash is detected in order to reduce the risk of injuries or death.

Unfortunately, according to Ford, the seatbelt pretensioner system used on some F-150 models "can generate excessive sparks when they deploy."

Complicating matters, gases created by the pretensioner "may ignite," Ford said in a statement, adding that "If this gas ignites, components behind the B-pillar, such as insulation and carpet may subsequently catch fire."

The B-pillar is the post that separates a vehicle's front and rear doors.

Ford says it is aware of 17 reports of smoke or fire in F-150s sold in the U.S., and another six involving trucks sold in Canada. It also noted that it did not know of any accidents or injuries caused by the defect.

Of the total 1.995 million pickups covered by the recall, 1.619 million were sold in the U.S.; North America is the primary market for the F-150, though some of the trucks are shipped to Latin America, the Middle East, and a handful of other countries.

The vehicles involved in the recall include those 2015 to 2018 model-year pickups produced at Ford's Dearborn, Michigan, truck plant between March 12, 2014 and August 23, 2018, as well as those assembled at a plant in Kansas City between August 20, 2014 through August 23, 2018.

The automaker will send out a recall notice to owners in the coming weeks and will make repairs at no charge. In a federal regulatory filing, it estimated the service campaign will cost it about $140 million.

The F-Series has not only been the best-selling truck in the U.S. for the past three decades, but the most popular vehicle overall. Demand totaled 896,764 last year, with Ford selling one of the pickups, on average, every 30 seconds. The trucks also compromise Ford's most profitable product line, according to company data.

The F-150 is just one of the vehicles recalled due to the risk of fire in recent days. Earlier this week, Toyota announced it was recalling more than 1 million hybrids worldwide due to a wiring defect. That includes about 200,000 Prius hybrids sold in the U.S.