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Auto blogSun, 10 Mar 2013
The rust issue in the rear wheel wells of 2004-2007 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans has finally led to a recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began an investigation into the matter in 2011, said investigation being upgraded to an engineering analysis a year later while NHTSA tried to figure out how many model years should be included in the assessment.
Ford has decided to recall all of the 230,000 minivans potentially affected, namely those sold in salt-belt states and countries like Canada. The excess rust in the rear wheel wells was also able to prevent the third-row seats from locking to the floor of the minivan. To repair the problem, owners can take their minivans to dealers, and the dealers will place new panels in the wheel wells, replace the third-row seat mounting brackets and relocate the latches to an area away from any corrosion.
Ford says it will begin notifying owners during the last week of March.
According to a Bloomberg report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has upgraded an investigation into complaints of unintended acceleration lodged against Ford vehicles. The investigation began in June of 2010 when just three complaints had been received and it only concerned the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan, but this was at a time when the phrase "unintended acceleration" made grown men go pale. With 49 additional complaints received since then, the investigation has been reclassified as an engineering analysis - the last phase before a recall - and it has been expanded to include the Lincoln MKZ, making for a total of "around 480,000" units affected between the three sedans from the 2008 to 2010 model years.
The ostensible cause is that floor mats are trapping the accelerator pedal, but according to a Ford statement at the time, the entrapment is due to owners placing the optional all-weather floor mats, or aftermarket floor mats, on top of the car's standard floor mats. NHTSA has backed up that assessment, pinning the blame on "unsecured or double stacked floor mats."
On the face of it, it would appear that NHTSA has upgraded the status not because of Ford's error, but owner error, and Ford has stated publicly that it is "disappointed" in NHTSA's move. On top of NHTSA still being skittish after that other unintended acceleration debacle, it could be seen to be taking its time investigating all of the variables: it's reported that Ford changed its accelerator pedal design in 2010, a "heel blocker" in the floorpan has been considered a potential culprit in how the floor mats could be trapping the pedal, some drivers have said the floor mats weren't anywhere near the pedal, and according to a report in the LA Times, in "a letter sent by Ford to NHTSA in August 2010, the automaker said it found three injuries and one fatality that 'may have resulted from the alleged defect.'"
Jill Wagner has officially given up her crown as the queen of Mercury. With the Ford middle child on its way to the scrap heap, Wagner no longer has any automotive hardware to promote. Given her varied talents, we wouldn't be surprised to see her pick up where she left off with another automaker.
And here you thought you'd never be upset about Mercury's passing.
Thanks for the tip, Gregg!