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U.S. upgrades Ford Fiesta door latch probe

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday it is upgrading an investigation into hundred of complaints of doors failing to latch or flying open into nearly 486,000 2011-2013 Ford Fiesta cars — as well as the 2013 Fusion and Lincoln MKZ.

NHTSA launched a preliminary investigation last year into 2011-13 Fiestas. NHTSA said it has received 207 reports related to the alleged problem, with 65 claiming doors opened inadvertently while the vehicle was in motion.

Two injuries were reported, both caused by a rebounding door striking a person after they attempted to close it.

Ford also told NHTSA that the 2013 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ use the same door latch as the Fiestas NHTAS has received 11 reports on these vehicles, with four allegations of inadvertent opening. NHTSA added those models to its investigation.

An engineering analysis is necessary before NHTSA can formally ask an automaker to recall vehicles it believes pose an unreasonable risk to vehicle safety.

Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said the automaker is cooperating.

The automaker said it has 451 reports related to the problem. One involved an incident in which a door opened while driving at low speed and struck another vehicle. Ford said it has 1,079 warranty claims related to door latch failures.

Ford told NHTSA “it does not believe that a latched door experiencing this condition will inadvertently unlatch and that there are many overt warnings associated with a door that does not latch.”

NHTSA noted that the rate of occurrence for this failure is comparable to other door latch failure investigations and questions the effectiveness of warning signals, given the number of complaints alleging that doors opened while cars were moving.