Product Liability

NHTSA investigating reports of sudden acceleration in Ford and Mercury cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating new reports of sudden unintended acceleration in three separate incidents, but not in Toyota vehicles. This time, the complaints involve acceleration incidents that have occurred in the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan.

NHTSA is investigating possible causes of sudden acceleration in the American-made cars. The probe is still ongoing, but floor mats appear to be a likely culprit just as they were reported to be in many of the sudden, unintended acceleration incidents involving millions of Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

Although no recalls have yet been issued, NHTSA has “warned owners of 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan vehicles not to place unsecured floor mats — made by Ford or anyone else — on top of the standard, carpeted floor mat in the driver’s side foot well,” reports the Detroit News. Placing a rubberized all-weather floor mat on top of the conventional rug floor mat can cause the accelerator pedal to jam in a downward position, potentially leading to high-speed crashes and other accidents.

NHTSA said that its preliminary investigation encompassed 249,301 vehicles, a small fraction of the cars and trucks recalled by Toyota over what that company claims to be defective floor mats.

Ironically, one of complaints received by NHTSA was submitted by Dan Edmunds, the Director of Vehicle Testing at Edmunds.com – a widely respected authority on automobile safety and quality. Edmunds explains on his company website that he had removed the rubber floor mat from the driver side of a Ford Fusion he was testing because it was stacked on top of the regular secured floor mat. However, a mechanic later found the all-weather floor mat in the trunk and put it back on top of the driver-side mat.

“I mashed the throttle to pass a slow-moving vehicle by shooting into a gap in traffic in the lane to my left,” Edmunds explains. “Lane change accomplished, I relaxed my foot to settle in, but the car kept accelerating [unintentionally, at this point] for perhaps another two or three seconds. Just as the Fusion bore down to within a couple car lengths of the car ahead, I heard a click down by my feet and the pedal released, returning all to normal.”

The click Edmunds heard was the gas pedal popping loose from under the stacked floor mats.

Edmunds said the frightening experience helped him relate to all the drivers who have been trapped in a vehicle that races out of control.

“Don’t assume everything is OK because a) you don’t drive a Toyota/Lexus product or b) because everything looked OK in a random curbside test. The real world contains far more variables and conditions than you or I can account for,” Edmunds said.

To date, NHTSA has not received any reports of injury linked to the Ford vehicles.