Ford Motor Co announced Oct. 13 that it will offer free repairs to North American owners of more than 1.4 million Explorer sport utility vehicles to help prevent carbon monoxide and other exhaust gases from entering the vehicles. This comes after the U.S. government’s decision to upgrade an investigation in July.
Several U.S. police agencies raised concerns about potentially deadly carbon monoxide gas entering the cabins of Ford Explorers that had been adapted for law enforcement uses. Additionally, federal regulators said they are aware of more than 2,700 complaints for exhaust odors as well as reports of three crashes and 41 injuries that may be linked to exposure to carbon monoxide among police and civilian 2011-2017 Explorer vehicles.
Ford, the second largest U.S. automaker, said starting Nov. 1 dealers will reprogram the air conditioner, replace the liftgate drain valves and inspect sealing of the rear of the vehicle. The fix covers about 1.3 million U.S. vehicles and about 100,000 in Canada and Mexico.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in July upgraded and expanded a probe into 1.33 million Ford Explorer SUVs over reports of exhaust odors in vehicle compartments and exposure to carbon monoxide. NHTSA said it is evaluating preliminary testing that suggests carbon monoxide levels may be elevated in certain driving scenarios.
Police agencies have reported two crashes that may be linked to carbon monoxide exposure and a third incident involving injuries related to carbon monoxide exposure. The city of Austin, Texas said in July it would remove all 400 of the city’s Ford Explorer SUVs from use for additional testing and repairs after the city said 20 police officers were found with elevated levels of carbon monoxide. The department returned the vehicles to service after repairs and testing.
In July, Ford said it would pay to repair police versions of its Ford Explorer SUVs to correct possible carbon monoxide leaks that may be linked to crashes and injuries after some police reports temporarily halted use of the vehicles over carbon monoxide concerns.
In 2016, Ford agreed to settle a U.S. class-action lawsuit involving 1 million 2011-2015 Explorer SUVs over exhaust odor complaints, including reimbursements of up to $500 for repairs and the company agreed to make repairs. That settlement was approved in June, but has not taken effect. An objection to the settlement was dismissed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 16, clearing the way for settlement initiation.
Ford has issued four technical service bulletins related to the exhaust odor issue to address complaints from police fleets and other owners. Lawyers in our firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section view Ford’s Oct. 13 repair plan as inadequate. For instance, Ford is offering exhaust gas defect repair options to law enforcement vehicles that its not offering to consumer vehicles. Ford’s decision to prioritize law enforcement personnel over ordinary consumers is suspicious, considering there are not material differences in the two sets of vehicles.
Lawyers in our firm are pursuing claims on behalf of owners/lessees of 2016-2017 Explorer, 2007-2014 Edge and 2007-2017 Mercury MKX vehicles. Clay Barnett, a lawyer in the firm who handles automotive defect class action litigation, is involved in this litigation. If you have experienced exhaust gas cabin intrusion or suspect that you have contact Clay at 800-898-2034 or by email at Clay.Barnett@beasleyallen.com.