The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation of 2007, 2008, and 2009 models of the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan. According to an agency bulletin, 141 owners of those vehicles have complained about problems with their brakes.
Each of those complaints involves reports of increased stopping distances. Many report a loss of pressure in the car's brake pedal, which has forced drivers to press much harder on the pedal to bring the vehicle to a stop.
The problem has been so bad in some cases that drivers say they've blown through red lights or past stop signs, into traffic, before being able to stop their vehicles. Three crashes linked to the problem have been reported, though thankfully, they've not resulted in any injuries or deaths.
NHTSA's initial assessment suggests the issue is linked to the vehicles' antilock braking system hydraulic control unit. That's in part because several reports indicate that problems with the brakes began after an event during which a vehicle's ABS was activated--for example, braking on a rough or slippery surface.
Some complaints state that the brake pedal returns to normal over time, but goes "soft" again following another event that engages the ABS. Others note that replacing the hydraulic control unit has fixed the problem.
The investigation is currently in the Preliminary Evaluation phase, during which Ford and NHTSA will review complaints to pinpoint possible sources of the problem. If the investigation moves to phase two, the Engineering Analysis, NHTSA will try to recreate the issue in lab settings.
Depending on how those tests go, NHTSA could ask Ford for a full or partial recall of 2007-2009 Ford Fusions and Mercury Milans. If that were to happen, up to 474,862 vehicles in the U.S. could have to be repaired.