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Ford SUV "Roll Away" Defects Investigation Closed

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According to The Detroit News (March 9, 2013) the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says there are not enough incidents of Ford 2002 to 2005 model year SUVs rolling away (while in park) to warrant further investigation. So the investigation into defects probed in the (2002-2005) Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer and the (2003-2005) Lincoln Aviator is being closed. The NHTSA notes what they view is a low number of complaints on the agency’s website. The NHTSA considered a failure rate of 4.4 vehicles in 100,000 for the defect in the automatic transmission parking system and 3.4 vehicles in 100,000 for the more major problem involving the brake shift interlock system, also too low to warrant recalls.

The NHTSA noted the decreased number of incident reports over time, but had received 36 complaints, 14 reports of crashes and six reports of minor injuries (including fractured ribs) due to the defects. The principle issue is whether the brake shift interlock functions correctly or can be overcome by a specific chain of events, such as a driver shifting within 0.4 seconds of applying the brakes. (The Detroit News, 3/9/13)

Ford continues to blame drivers who are unsafe and those who “may experience unintended vehicle movement while in park,” (Detroit News, 3/9/13). (I am scratching my head over that last one). Ford went so far as to suggest that parking brakes in 2002-2005 Explorers and Mountaineers may need more of the driver’s effort to shift the transmission into park, and recommended to Ford dealers that a shift interlock part should be replaced.

The Los Angeles Times, (March 8, 2013) reported, however, that NHTSA documents did point out that the “closing of this investigation does not constitute a finding by the NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist.” So how many of these events does Ford need to initiate its own recall? Unless NHTSA suggests that Ford initiate a "voluntary" recall, Ford is unlikely to do so because of the expense. Hopefully, there will be no more crashes because of this condition.