Federal Investigation Targets Potential Ford Safety Problems

An Associated Press story published yesterday on The Oregonian’s website should grab the attention of many Oregon motorists concerned about both Oregon traffic safety and Oregon defective products issues. According to the news agency, the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “says it will investigate problems with stalling or surging engines in nearly 725,000 Ford cars and SUVs.”
According to the article the investigation covers 2009, 2010 and 2011 models and applies to the following vehicles:

➢ Ford Escape SUV
➢ Mercury Mariner SUV
➢ Ford Fusion
➢ Mercury Milan
A statement released Monday by the NHTSA said that the engines in all these vehicles can abruptly lose power, sending them into what it calls “limp-home mode.” The federal agency says it has received close to 1500 complaints about the problem, though only a handful of crashes have been reported. It is important to emphasize that announcing an investigation does not mean that the vehicles are being recalled, though formal investigations are often a first step in the recall process.

AP reports that “Ford told NHTSA that vehicles made from June 22, 2009, to October 15, 2009, may have faulty printed circuit boards that control the throttles.” The article notes that the number of complaints about stalling engines has increased markedly in the last 10 months – fully 80 percent of all reports regarding the issue have come in during since March of last year. That fact implies that the problem may be one that emerges only with time – in other words, if you own one of these vehicles the fact that you have not experienced a throttle problem does not mean it won’t happen in the future.

It is good to see that the government is moving to investigate the problem, but that does not change the seriousness of the issue or the potential liability questions it raises for Ford. Interestingly, the AP article notes that “Ford has received 27,505 warranty claims in which the throttle bodies were repaired or replaced.” From a Portland product safety lawyer’s vantage point this raises some interesting questions. Has Ford been pro-active enough in moving to protect its customers from a manufacturing defect that could lead to serious injuries or even deaths if, for example, a car’s engine were to stall abruptly in heavy, fast-moving traffic? Processing warranty claims is not a bad start, but it leads most reasonable observers to ask why the company did not move to inform all vehicle owners of the problem. As it goes forward, this investigation will definitely be worth watching.

AP via The Oregonian: Feds probe nearly 750,000 Ford automobiles for engine problems