Feds Update Probe Into Ford Cars
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal safety officials have upgraded their investigation into 277,656 of the 1998 Ford Contour and Mystique sedans that may spit out gasoline during refueling.
There have been more than 300 reports of the problem made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ford Motor Co.
Ford has another 11,066 reports of frequent nozzle shutoffs and difficulty in filling the tank that do not mention spit-backs.
A Ford spokesman said the automaker is cooperating with NHTSA on the investigation, but it’s too early to speculate on the outcome. According to NHTSA’s report, the automaker told investigators that the amount of fuel that is expelled is not large enough to create a safety problem.
NHTSA is upgrading the investigation to conduct testing and interview owners who have complained.
NHTSA begins any investigation with a preliminary evaluation, during which the agency and the manufacturer exchange paperwork that includes any complaints. The investigation then could be upgraded to an engineering analysis, during which engineers study parts to see if they are defective, as in the case of the Contour and Mystique.
An investigation eventually can lead to a recall, but many are dropped.
NHTSA investigators have been busy examining the safety of Firestone and Goodyear tires that allegedly can lose their tread. There have been reports of at least 119 deaths involving Firestone tires and 15 deaths involving Goodyear tires.
According to a monthly report of investigations released Wednesday, the agency also opened a preliminary evaluation into 1999 and 2000 Lincoln Continentals with side air bags that have reportedly deployed suddenly without any impact.
The agency has three complaints of the problem, including reports of two people receiving minor injuries. There are about 50,000 of the vehicles on the road.
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