Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fords' floor mats reviewed for safety

LOS ANGELES — Federal auto safety regulators have launched an investigation into whether floor mats in 2010 Ford Motor Co.'s Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans can entrap the gas pedal, causing unintended acceleration.
The investigation follows complaints of a similar nature that sparked the recall of millions of Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles in recent months.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has warned drivers of the Fusion and its Milan sibling not to place any unsecured floor mats, whether made by Ford or an after-market retailer, on top of the standard, carpeted floor mat in the driver's side foot well.

Drivers should also make sure that their floor mats are secured to the floor and not stacked, the safety agency said.

Ford Motor Co. has built about 249,000 Fusion and Milan sedans. The Fusion is rival to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord and is one of the nation's best selling mid-size sedans.

NHTSA verifies 3 complaints

NHTSA said it has "verified three consumer complaints" about the problem. These incidents resulted when drivers laid Ford's optional rubber all-weather floor mat on top of the carpeted floor mat in the driver's side foot well. If the rubber mat slips forward, it can trap the gas pedal in a down position.

"This is most likely to occur after the driver presses the accelerator pedal substantially such as when merging or passing in traffic," the agency said in a statement.

NHTSA said it has received no complaints involving crashes, injuries or fatalities.

Ford said it was cooperating with the federal safety agency. A company spokes-man said the automaker was not aware of any complaints from drivers who installed their floor mats according to Ford's instructions. "We do not recommend stacking floor mats in any vehicle," said the spokesman, Said Deep.

Ford places a warning on top of its rubber all-weather floor mats that says, "Do not place on top of existing floor mats," he said.

Additionally, driver's side floor mats manufactured by the company have an attachment to secure them in place to prevent them from sliding.

All drivers should check

NHTSA said drivers should pay more attention to the position of their floor mats, including how they are secured or whether they are stacked, regardless of the make or model of their vehicle.

About 249,300 cars from the 2010 model year may be affected, NHTSA said Tuesday on its website.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's largest carmaker, has recalled about 5.4 million vehicles in the past year for floor mats that the company said may entrap gas pedals and cause unintended acceleration.

"It isn't just the company that's facing the investigation or recall," John Wolkonowicz, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., said in an interview. "It's a black eye for the entire industry."

The Fusion is Ford's best-selling car, accounting for 38 percent of sales for Ford-brand passenger cars this year through April, and the Milan represents more than a third of Mercury vehicle sales.

Bloomberg News contributed to this story.

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