NHTSA Closes Probes Of Ford, VW Problems, But Automakers Promise To Inspect & Repair Vehicles

March 5, 2014

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has pulled the plug on two unrelated probes of Ford and Volkswagen vehicles. According to AutoNews, the agency determined that, although the reported problems on those vehicles are real, they don't constitute a safety hazard to motorists.

2009-2013 Ford Escape, Ford Fusion, 2009-2011 Mercury Mariner, Mercury Milan

The Ford investigation stemmed from a problem with the throttle body found on powertrains on 2009-2013 models of the Ford Escape and Ford Fusion, as well as 2009-2011 models of the Mercury Mariner and Mercury Milan. In certain situations, the throttle body can malfunction, illuminating a warning light on the dashboard and sending the car into "limp home" mode by limiting the engine to 900 rpms. The flaw seems related to a software glitch.

Ford and NHTSA each received numerous complaints about the problem: the agency fielded 1,147 reports, while Ford was contacted by a whopping 10,999 owners. All told, 12 collisions have been associated with the problem, although most occurred at low speeds and only one injury was reported.

NHTSA determined that because drivers are alerted to the problem via the warning light and because "limp home" mode doesn't disable features like power steering or brakes, it doesn't merit a complete recall. If the agency had opted to force a recall, it would've affected some 1.6 million vehicles in the U.S.

In turn, Ford has said that it will extend the warranty on those vehicles to 10 years or 150,000 miles. It has also promised to launch a customer satisfaction campaign, encouraging owners to visit a Ford dealer and have the software on the powertrain control model updated.

 2009-2010 Volkswagen Jetta sedan, 2009 Volkswagen GTI

NHTSA has also closed an investigation into fuses found on the 2009-2010 Volkswagen Jetta sedan and 2009 Volkswagen GTI. The probe began in the wake of a recall of the 2009-2010 Volkswagen Tiguan, which was found to have a dodgy electrical fuse that could cause the crossover to lose some or all of its exterior lights.

The Jetta and GTI use the same fuse as the Tiguan, but as NHTSA explains on its website:

"According to VW, the temperature of the vehicle's engine and the fuse box varies by vehicle model. [The Office of Defects Investigation] found that the complaint and warranty rates for the MY 2009-2010 Tiguan are more than four times greater than that of MY 2009-2010 Volkswagen Jetta sedans."

In other words, the fuses on the Jetta and the GTI can cause trouble, but not nearly as often as on the Tiguan, and not often enough to warrant a recall. 

Like Ford, VW has promised to conduct a service campaign, encouraging owners to bring their vehicles to a dealership for inspection. If necessary, dealers will replace the affected fuses.


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