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Auto blogMon, 17 Dec 2012
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.'"
Ford hybrid customers apparently have very short memories. With two EPA fuel economy reratings in the last year, sales of the C-Max, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ haven't been too terribly dented, Ward's Auto reports.
All three vehicles saw sales dips following the August 2013 rerating, although sales of the MKZ Hybrid had begun to rebound as early as November of that year. C-Max sales, meanwhile, took slightly longer, with sales on a steadily improving course as early as February of this year.
The second rerating, in June of this year, has had an even smaller effect on the Blue Oval's hybrids. The C-Max has actually been subject to a sales increase, while both the MKZ and Fusion saw minor sales drops (less than 400 units between the two in the month following the rerating).
Ford has announced five separate recalls, affecting 202,000 vehicles built between 2005 and 2014.
It's not been a great couple of weeks for Ford. On October 30, the company announced a 205,000-unit recall, and yesterday, it was revealed that the Ford brand's year-over-year sales were down over 5,000 units while the company itself was down 3,000 units over through October. Now, the company has announced five separate recalls affecting 202,000 vehicles built between 2005 and 2014.