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Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday it has opened an investigation into 205,000 Ford Fiesta cars because of complaints the doors failed to latch.

NHTSA said in opening its preliminary evaluation after receiving 61 reports concerning the door latches on 2011-13 Ford Fiesta cars. Some complaints say the door failed to latch with several reports indicating that the "door ajar" warning light on the dash appeared. One injury was reported that was caused by a consumer being struck by a door that rebounded after attempting to close it.

NHTSA said 12 reports say the door or doors opened after it was shut and the driver started driving. Some owners say they have been forced to secure the doors with ropes — and say Ford dealers can't fix the problem because of a back order of parts. For cars out of warranty, it can cost at least $500 to replace both rear latches. One complaint in July filed in NHTSA said both rear door latches failed and a dealer said "it could take up three weeks to get replacement latches because Ford can't keep up with replacement parts."

Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said the Dearborn automaker is cooperating "on this investigation as we always do."

In a complaint filed in March, the owner of a 2011 Fiesta said the power door locks failed to lock intermittently. The dealer replaced the latches twice. The owner said "he had to tie a rope around the door over the roof to the other side."

In another complaint in April, a driver opened the passenger side rear door to put a child in a car seat. The owner put the child in the car, shut the door and started the car.

"When I started to reverse, the door alert came on," the owner said, saying it has repeatedly happened but the car no longer has a bumper to bumper warranty. "I have the door tied to the inside of the car and the door open notification constantly comes on as well as well as the inside lights. Luckily, I noticed this before pulling off or the situation could have been life threatening for the kids."

NHTSA typically takes three to six months to decide whether to upgrade a preliminary evaluation to an engineering analysis — a step required before NHTSA can demand an automaker conduct a recall.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com

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