Ford urged to recall 1.3M Explorers over fume fears

Ryan Beene
Bloomberg News

A Washington-based auto safety group is repeating its call for Ford Motor Co. to recall more than a million Explorer sport-utility vehicles, citing an increase in the number of complaints about exhaust fumes seeping inside the vehicles.

Nearly 1,400 complaints about the exhaust fumes in the sport utility vehicles have been lodged with regulators, according to a tally by the the Center for Auto Safety. Hundreds of people said they had been affected by fumes, and the complaints included reports of more than 80 injuries.

The automaker in October announced a nationwide service campaign to reduce the potential for exhaust fumes to enter the cabins and said that an internal investigation had not found carbon monoxide levels exceeding what people are exposed to every day.

“Explorers are safe,” Ford said in a statement Tuesday, adding that concerned customers can visit their dealer for a free repair. “Ford’s investigation and extensive testing has not found carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day.”

According to the complaints, drivers reported feeling ill, with symptoms ranging from headaches and dizziness to nausea and loss of consciousness, Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said in a statement on Tuesday. No deaths have been reported.

“It is easy to imagine a roadside crash caused by carbon monoxide exposure resulted in a fatality but was written off as drowsy driving,” Levine said in an open letter the group planned to send Tuesday to Jim Hackett, Ford’s chief executive. “It is possible that Ford and Ford’s customers have just been lucky up until this point, but the time for Ford to take more serious action is now, before that luck runs out.”

The letter marks an escalation in the group’s push for Ford to recall the SUVs, after a similar request in October.

In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating the issue in 2011-2015 model-year Explorers. The agency expanded the scope of the inquiry last July to include 2016 and 2017 Explorers, totaling 1.3 million vehicles.