Tough Puffery: Court Closes Door on Ford False Advertising Suit
The Northern District of New York recently found that Ford Motor Company’s “Built Ford Tough” slogan was non-actionable puffery, and dismissed putative false advertising class action claims brought under New York law that centered on that slogan. The case is Kommer v. Ford Motor Company, No. 1:17-cv-296 in the Northern District of New York.
The case involved Ford’s F-150 pickup trucks, which were advertised as being “Ford Tough.” Plaintiff Kommer purchased a 2015 Ford F-150 truck, but allegedly experienced issues with the truck’s doors and locks. According to Kommer, when temperatures dropped below freezing, the doors would not latch closed and the electric locks would not open. These door and lock issues were the subject of Technical Services Bulletins that Ford issued in 2015 and 2016. Plaintiff Kommer alleged that the “Built Ford Tough” advertisement was false because it misled him and other consumers into believing that the doors of Ford’s F-150 pickup trucks would “operate correctly at temperatures at or below freezing.”
The court noted that the advertisements at issue made “no reference whatsoever to the quality of the vehicles’ door handles.” Furthermore, the court determined, the phrase “Built Ford Tough” was mere puffery—an “exaggerated and generalized claim” that a reasonable consumer would not interpret as a factual statement on which he or she could rely. The court’s determination accords with a 2010 District of Colorado case that also found Ford’s “Built Ford Tough” and “Quality is Job #1” slogans to be mere puffery, as well as a case regarding Chevrolet Suburbans that found the phrases “Like a Rock” and “most dependable, long-lasting trucks on the planet” to be mere puffery.
The court dismissed Kommer’s claims that “Built Ford Tough” was an affirmative misrepresentation, and denied leave to amend. The court also showed Kommer the door on his second theory of liability—that Ford had violated New York law in failing to disclose the door and lock issues to consumers—because the court found that Kommer had not alleged any cognizable injury. Kommer had not personally expended any money to repair his vehicle, the court wrote, nor had he alleged that he paid too much for what he received, because Ford provided a warranty for the free repair of the door issues of which Kommer complained. However, the court did grant Kommer leave to amend his failure-to-disclose claims.
Kommer filed an amended complaint centering on his failure-to-disclose claims on August 28, 2017. Watch this space for notable developments in this case and other false advertising matters.