The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating nearly a million Ford Motor Co. vehicles over potential problems with their electronic power steering systems. Some drivers have said this defect made them lose control of their vehicles. NHTSA said its Office of Defects Investigation has received more than 500 complaints claiming that the steering assist feature on certain Ford Fusion, Lincoln MKZ and Mercury Milan models failed, making it harder for drivers to steer the vehicle, and easier to lose control of it, according to documents posted on NHTSA’s website. NHTSA said in the document posted on its website:
Many of the complaints indicated observing a power steering warning message as the failure occurred. In some cases, the condition was corrected by turning the vehicle off and restarting. However, many reports indicate the condition returned again after restart. A Preliminary Evaluation has been opened to assess the scope, frequency and safety consequences of the alleged defect.
The investigation includes some 938,000 vehicles of model years 2010 to 2012 for the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ. Ford was sued in California federal court in June over the power steering in its Focus and Fusion models, where a proposed class of consumers claimed it knew that the defective system suddenly and prematurely fails during normal driving conditions. The suit claims Ford touted the ability of its power steering system’s “pull-drift compensation” in marketing materials, telling consumers that the system would detect road conditions and adjust the steering system to help drivers compensate for pulling and drifting. The system was also allegedly marketed as increasing fuel economy and protecting driver safety.
However, the system suffers from design and manufacturing defects in the wiring, sensors and gear assembly that leads to loss of connections within the system, as well as corrosion and breakage of critical wiring, the suit says. When the system fails while the vehicle is on the road, drivers are unable to turn the vehicle, exposing those in the car, as well as those in surrounding vehicles and pedestrians, to the risk of accidents and potentially fatal bodily harm, according to the complaint.
Ford, in late May, announced recalls of its Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and Ford Explorer vehicles over power steering issues. The company told NHSA at the time that it knew of five accidents and six injuries linked to the potential defect.
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