New Jersey-based Coba Landscaping and Construction Inc has filed a lawsuit against Ford, accusing the automaker of knowingly selling defective vehicles for a decade. Automotive News reports that the landscapers allege Ford knew that gas tanks in the F-Series trucks and E-Series vans were defective, and worked to hide the issue from customers.

The lawsuit concerns the fuel tanks in the 1998-2008 Ford F-Series pickup trucks and E-Series (a.k.a. Econoline) vans. It asserts that over time, the internal fuel tank lining would separate and "flake off." Those flakes could clog the vehicles' fuel systems with metal flakes or rust, causing the engine to lose power or stall.

The suit further alleges that Ford issued a technical service bulletin on the problem to dealers in 2007 -- but that notice was reportedly "secret" and never shared with customers. The fuel tank failure could have affected "hundreds, if not thousands" of vehicle owners across the country.

A Ford spokeswoman told us today she couldn't comment on the lawsuit. The suit was only filed yesterday, and Ford has not yet been served with the complaint. The company says it would be "premature" to comment on the lawsuit before it has reviewed the legal document.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has previously investigated the 1997-2001 Ford F-150 pickup truck over a different issue, where rusting gas tank straps could give way and allow the tank to fall from the vehicle and leak fuel. By May 2011, that investigation covered 2.7 million vehicles. Then in August 2011, Ford recalled the 1997-2004 F-150, 1997-1999 F-250, and 2002-2003 Lincoln Blackwood trucks for that issue.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)