On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it is upgrading its investigation into door-latch failures on Ford Fiesta cars from the 2011 to 2013 model years. Not only did federal regulators expand the probe to also include 2013 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ cars, but also opened an engineering analysis.
The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) started a preliminary investigation in September 2014 after receiving complaints of doors failing to latch or those inadvertently opening on 2011 to 2013 Fiestas. The ODI received a total of 207 reports regarding the door-latch failure, 65 of which indicated that the door (or doors) suddenly opened while the vehicle is moving. There are two reported injuries related to the problem; both were the result of a door rebounding and hitting an individual after they tried to close it.
The ODI asked Ford Motor Co. for more information, and the automaker informed the office about the 451 reports related to the issue. One report claimed that the door-latch failure resulted in property damage, as the door opened while the vehicle was moving at low speed and hit another vehicle. The Blue Oval also sent the ODI 1,079 warranty claims related to the door-latch problem.
Moreover, Ford told the ODI that Ford Fusions and Lincoln MKZs from the 2013 model year were equipped with the same door latch found in the 2011 to 2013 Fiestas. This is what prompted regulators to include the aforementioned models in its probe. The ODI also received 11 complaints involving these nameplates, with 4 reports of inadvertent door opening.
Ford claimed it does not believe a latched door would suddenly become unlatched. The company also noted that there are warnings that come with doors that do not latch. However, the ODI pointed out that the rate of occurrence for the problem is comparable to previous door-latch failure probes. Regulators also do not think the warning signals were effective, since many reports claim that the door opened while the car was moving. For this reason, the ODI upgraded the preliminary evaluation to an engineering analysis to further determine the door-latch failure’s “scope, frequency and consequence.”
Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said that the company is cooperating with the NHTSA’s investigation.
Upon receiving complaints regarding any safety defect, the NHTSA starts with a preliminary investigation. The safety agency opens such probe to learn more about the problem. Based on what the regulators find out from the investigation, they could either close the probe without further action or open an engineering analysis. The results of the engineering analysis will determine whether the NHTSA will formally ask the automaker to issue a recall over the safety concern.