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Ford Offers Airbags For Passengers As Standard Equipment

June 22, 1988

DETROIT (AP) _ Proclaiming that safety features are becoming a new competitive battleground for automakers, Ford Motor Co. has announced it will make passenger-side as well as driver-side air bags standard equipment on its 1989 Lincoln Continental.

The move will make Ford the first domestic automaker to offer the dual bag system, Ford spokesman Bill Peacock said Tuesday.

Chrysler Corp. already offers a driver-side air bag system as standard equipment on six models built after May 15, and has been touting the devices heavily in advertising. By 1990, Chrysler plans to have driver-side bags as standard equipment on all U.S.-built models.

Ford executives scheduled a news conference today in Washington to give details on which other models would receive the dual bag system for 1990, and how the automaker planned to meet government requirements for passive restraint systems.

West Germany’s Porsche has offered dual air bags on its four-cylinder cars since 1987 as standard equipment on 944 Turbo and added the 944 S and 944 Turbo S for 1988, Porsche spokeswoman Martha McKinley said.

Ford last year requested and won for the industry a delay in a federal passive restraint regulation that would have required air bags on both sides of cars not equipped with automatic seat belts.

Instead, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration allowed automakers to count the single-bag, driver-side-only systems as passive restraints while they developed the dual-bag systems.

Peacock said the decision prevented slower passenger-side bag development from holding up installation of driver-side bags. Since 1985, Ford has offered air bags as an $815 option on its small Ford Tempo-Mercury Topaz cars.

″We’re phasing in the right front air bag in much the same fashion we did the driver-side bag,″ Peacock said.

In the dual system, the driver-side and passenger-side bags share a single set of sensors, which detect impact, and computer controls, which set off an explosive charge that inflates the bags in a fraction of a second.

The NHTSA rule required all automakers to include passive restraints - air bags or automatic front seat belts - on 10 percent of their cars in 1987, 25 percent in 1988, 40 percent in 1989 and 100 percent in 1990.

Ford offers motorized automatic front seat belts on some of its smaller cars.

On the Tempo-Topaz, the driver-side air bag is an $815 option. Peacock said Ford has sold about 12,000 of the air bag-equipped Tempo-Topaz models a year since 1985 and expects to sell 50,000 Lincoln Continentals in 1989.

The dual system is a $3,500 option on the base Porsche 944, McKinley said. Porsche has never offered a driver-side-only air bag system.

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