Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
June 24, 2014

NHTSA Reviews Exhaust Fume Complaints About Ford Explorers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently reviewing complaints that exhaust fumes, which carry potentially deadly carbon monoxide, could build up in the cabins of 2011 to 2014 model year Ford Explorer SUVs. The agency made the announcement last Friday.

In a statement, federal safety regulators noted that they are aware of complaints that owners notice “exhaust fumes or strange odors” in the aforementioned vehicle’s cabin. The agency said that it is examining all data and will take the necessary action after the review is over.

The NHTSA did not call its response to the complaints as a formal investigation, and no probe regarding the matter is listed on its website.

The agency has received a total of 20 complaints and one lawsuit filed by a customer about exhaust fumes entering the cabin of the SUVs. In one complaint, the passenger needed to head to the hospital after feeling “violently ill.” In most of the reports, customers complained that they brought their vehicles to the dealership but were not fixed when returned to them.

The sole auto defect lawsuit was filed by Angela Sanchez-Knutson in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The lawsuit alleges that Sanchez-Knutson bought a 2013 Explorer in March 2012 from a dealership at Gainesville, Florida and almost immediately started smelling exhaust in the passenger compartment. Sanchez-Knutson claimed that she and her 5-year-old daughter have suffered headaches from driving the SUV.

In December 2012, Ford Motor Co. issued a technical service bulletin about the problem to dealers. The automaker acknowledged the issue, saying that selected late model Explorer SUVs “may exhibit an exhaust odor in the vehicle with the auxiliary climate-control systems on.” Ford then gave dealers three remedies on how to possibly address the problem.

It is important to note that service bulletins are instructions for dealers to address customer complaints. These do not address safety issues, which are resolved through recalls.

The lawsuit claims that all the recommendations mentioned in the service bulletin were performed on Sanchez Knutson’s vehicle but none of these fixed the problem. Attorney Michael Hersh, who represents Sanchez-Knutson, noted that the dealer claimed that there was no carbon monoxide entering the vehicle. However, Hersh had the vehicle tested and testing revealed that 100 parts per million of carbon monoxide can build up in the Explorer’s cabin. The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that a level over 70 parts per million can start putting healthy individuals at risk.

Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said that the company does not comment on pending cases. She also said that Ford is confident in its ability to determine and resolve safety concerns, and is currently reviewing the case. She gave the assurance that the automaker will immediately recall the vehicles if necessary.

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