Following a more than two-and-a-half-year-old investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) into possible unintended acceleration of Ford vehicles after gas pedal entrapment, the agency has intensified the probe to a full engineering analysis.
2009 Ford FusionEnlarge Photo
The NHTSA upgrade, posted on the agency’s website, now involves an estimated 480,000 2008 through 2010 model year Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ mid-size sedans. When the probe first began in May 2010, the vehicle count was an estimated 249,301 2010 model year Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans only. The Lincoln MKZ was not included.
2010 Mercury MilanEnlarge Photo
According to the NHTSA bulletin, “The accelerator pedal may fail to return to idle due to interference created by unsecured or double-stacked floor mats in the driver’s foot-well.” A heel-blocker in the floorpan, said NHTSA, provides a platform that may lift an unsecured mat into contact with the pedal.
Although no crashes or injuries have been reported, there have been a total of 52 complaints attributed to the issue with some drivers alleging that they had to shift into neutral or turn off the engine in order to slow down.
2010 Lincoln MKZEnlarge Photo
Ford introduced new pedals early in the 2010 model year as a running change.
As reported in Bloomberg and elsewhere, Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said that the automaker is “disappointed” by the NHTSA decision, “particularly since the condition under investigation relates to improperly installed, unsecured or double-stacked floor mats.”
Krusel added that Ford all-weather mats have printed instructions on the top of the mats informing drivers not to stack them. All Ford vehicles and mats have an attachment on the driver’s side to affix mats properly to the floor.
In documentation submitted by Ford (PDF) to the NHTSA in 2011, the automaker said its pedal entrapment issues were not similar to those involving Toyota vehicles. “There are no confirmed runaway vehicles like those for the recalled Toyota vehicles,” the Ford letter stated, adding that Ford vehicles have a conventional ignition key and an easily operable shift lever, making it easier for drivers to turn off the vehicle in an emergency.
NHTSA said this investigation has been upgraded to an engineering analysis of model year 2008 through early 2010 vehicles (produced through September 2009) “to further assess the scope, frequency and safety consequences of the alleged defect.”
An engineering analysis may or may not lead to an official recall.