Product Liability

Sudden acceleration in Ford Freestyles under investigation

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating several consumer complaints involving Ford’s Freestyle car-SUV crossover vehicles for their potential to lunge forward unexpectedly. The agency’s database says the investigation was opened on May 11, 2011 after receiving 238 complaints about problems with the vehicles’ speed control.

These reports of unintended acceleration have been submitted by owners of 2005 to 2007 model-year Freestyles. Unlike many reports involving sudden, unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, which many drivers have alleged raced out of control over long distances and at violent speeds even when the brakes were fully pressed, complaints about the Freestyles involve briefer acceleration incidents and better braking control.

“Reports allege that the lunging occurs when the driver’s foot is not on the accelerator and either firmly on the brake pedal, lightly on the brake pedal, or hovering above the pedals (such as may occur when coasting under idle speed). Incidents occurring during firm brake application note increased engine rpm, but no vehicle movement,” the NHTSA bulletin states.

“But in some cases the vehicle has moved as much as 10 feet if the brake was not applied, lightly applied, or applied late,” NHTSA says.

The Freestyle sudden-acceleration incidents occur when the vehicle is either idling or traveling at a low speed. NHTSA says that there are some indications the lunging may be made worse when the air conditioning is on or when the steering wheel is turned repeatedly as it is during a parking maneuver.

Of the reported incidents, 18 have resulted in minor crashes. One minor injury involving bruising was reported to NHTSA by a driver whose vehicle lunged forward and struck a pedestrian.

“A Preliminary Evaluation has been opened to assess the scope, frequency, and safety-related consequences of the alleged defect,” NHTSA said.

NHTSA believes the sudden-acceleration flaw could be present in 170,000 Ford Freestyles. No recalls have been issued yet, but drivers should report any unusual lunging incidents to NHTSA’s complaint database www.safercar.gov.

In 2008, Ford renamed the Freestyle the Taurus X. Production of the vehicle ended the following year.

Source: NHTSA