US probes Ford vehicles for steering, door latch problems


DETROIT (AP) — Two Ford Motor Co. models are under investigation by U.S. safety regulators for problems similar to those that have caused over 3 million other Ford vehicles to be recalled.

The probes cover about 643,000 vehicles including 380,000 Edge SUVs from the 2011 to 2013 model years, and nearly 263,000 Fusions from the 2010 model year. In each case, other Ford vehicles have been recalled for what appears to be the same problems.

About 1,560 people have complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the “door ajar” warning light won’t shut off on the Edges, and some have reported that the doors can fly open while the SUVs are moving. One injury was reported. The problem is similar to one that has dogged Ford for the past year, forcing it to recall at least 3 million other vehicles.

In the other investigation, NHTSA said it has 547 complaints that the electric power-assisted steering can fail on the 2010 Ford Fusion. Last year, the company recalled Fusions from the 2011 and 2012 model years, but did not recall the 2010 models even though they have the same power steering system, the safety agency said in documents posted Monday. NHTSA said it has 12 reports of crashes and four injuries due to the problem.

The investigations could lead to expansion of the previous recalls, although that decision has not been made. The safety agency says it will “assess the scope, frequency and consequence” of the alleged defects.

Ford spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt said in a statement Monday that the company would cooperate in the investigations. “We continuously evaluate our processes for potential improvements, and when the data indicates a safety recall is needed, we move quickly on behalf of our customers,” the statement said.

Weigandt said she is looking into why the vehicles that are under investigation weren’t included in the previous recalls and whether the Edges have the same door latches as those that were recalled earlier.

Shares of Ford Motor Co. edged up 4 cents to $12.11 in morning trading Monday. Ford shares are down more than 13 percent over the past year.

Last month, Ford announced that it would spend $640 million to replace door latches on nearly 2.4 million cars, trucks and vans this year because the doors can pop open while the vehicles are moving. The announcement came the same day that the company announced it would add 1.5 million vehicles to the pesky recall, which has become so costly Ford had to cut its estimated full-year pretax profit to $10.2 billion from at least $10.8 billion.

Customers have been complaining about the problem, which has affected much of Ford’s North American model lineup, since 2014. At least 3 million vehicles have been recalled to fix the latches. Included in previous recalls were the Ford Escape, C-Max, Focus, Fiesta, Mustang and Lincoln MKC. Complaints from owners prompted several previous NHTSA investigations.

In the Edge investigation, a complaint filed Sept. 9 by an owner from Franklin, Massachusetts, said the driver’s door will not latch, causing the dome light to stay on, draining the battery and making it hard to drive at night. A fix by the dealer didn’t work, the person wrote. Customers who complain are not identified in the NHTSA database.

In the Fusion investigation, NHTSA said the customer complaints said the power steering failed, significantly increasing the amount of effort it takes to turn the steering wheel.

In May of 2015, Ford recalled 423,000 cars and SUVs in North America, including the 2011 and 2012 Fusions, to update software or replace the steering gear due to power steering failures. That recall also came after NHTSA opened an investigation. According to a class-action lawsuit filed in June about the matter, the problem could affect more Ford models, including the compact Focus.

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