The past 12 months haven't been kind to Ford's door latches.
In March of 2015, the automaker recalled about 212,000 Explorer SUVs from 2011-2013 to replace latches that could pop open during collisions. Two months later, 156,000 Ford Fiesta, Fusion, and Lincoln MKZ models from 2012, 2013, and 2014 were recalled for their own latch issues that might allow doors to open while vehicles were in motion.
Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation of Ford Focus vehicles, including the Ford Focus Electric, over door latches. The Focus' problem appears similar to the one that plagued the Fiesta, Fusion, and MKZ -- and it happens to affect vehicles from the same model-years.
To date, NHTSA has received 73 complaints from Focus owners. According to agency documents:
"Complainants alleged that the door(s) failed to latch, with several reports indicating that the "door ajar" warning light on the dash appeared. Some drivers allege that the door opened while the vehicle was being driven. Complainants with a failed door latch indicate that in some cases the door had to be physically tied down to keep shut while others stopped driving the vehicle out of fear of the door opening while driving."
At least one of the complaints reported an injury, which resulted when a door rebounded after a consumer tried to close it. NHTSA says that descriptions of the Focus' latch failures seem very similar to those found on the Fiesta, Fusion, and MKZ.
NHTSA's investigation of the Ford Focus is in what's called the Preliminary Evaluation phase. During this phase, the agency will work with Ford to examine complaints and identify patterns. Depending on NHTSA's findings, the probe could move to an Engineering Analysis, when NHTSA will attempt to recreate the Focus' problems in lab settings. Tests like those will determine whether NHTSA asks for a full or partial recall of the Focus.