The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently
reviewing complaints that exhaust fumes, which carry potentially deadly
carbon monoxide, could build up in the cabins of 2011 to 2014 model year
Ford Explorer SUVs. The agency made the announcement last Friday.
In a statement, federal safety regulators noted that they are aware of
complaints that owners notice “exhaust fumes or strange odors”
in the aforementioned vehicle’s cabin. The agency said that it is
examining all data and will take the necessary action after the review is over.
The NHTSA did not call its response to the complaints as a formal investigation,
and no probe regarding the matter is listed on its website.
The agency has received a total of 20 complaints and one lawsuit filed
by a customer about exhaust fumes entering the cabin of the SUVs. In one
complaint, the passenger needed to head to the hospital after feeling
“violently ill.” In most of the reports, customers complained
that they brought their vehicles to the dealership but were not fixed
when returned to them.
auto defect lawsuit was filed by Angela Sanchez-Knutson in the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of Florida. The lawsuit alleges that Sanchez-Knutson
bought a 2013 Explorer in March 2012 from a dealership at Gainesville,
Florida and almost immediately started smelling exhaust in the passenger
compartment. Sanchez-Knutson claimed that she and her 5-year-old daughter
have suffered headaches from driving the SUV.
In December 2012, Ford Motor Co. issued a technical service bulletin about
the problem to dealers. The automaker acknowledged the issue, saying that
selected late model Explorer SUVs “may exhibit an exhaust odor in
the vehicle with the auxiliary climate-control systems on.” Ford
then gave dealers three remedies on how to possibly address the problem.
It is important to note that service bulletins are instructions for dealers
to address customer complaints. These do not address safety issues, which
are resolved through recalls.
The lawsuit claims that all the recommendations mentioned in the service
bulletin were performed on Sanchez Knutson’s vehicle but none of
these fixed the problem. Attorney Michael Hersh, who represents Sanchez-Knutson,
noted that the dealer claimed that there was no carbon monoxide entering
the vehicle. However, Hersh had the vehicle tested and testing revealed
that 100 parts per million of carbon monoxide can build up in the Explorer’s
cabin. The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that a level over
70 parts per million can start putting healthy individuals at risk.
Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said that the company does not comment
on pending cases. She also said that Ford is confident in its ability
to determine and resolve safety concerns, and is currently reviewing the
case. She gave the assurance that the automaker will immediately recall
the vehicles if necessary.