In 1990, Ford Motor Company introduced an all-new model: the Explorer. This was one of the first Sport-Utility Vehicles introduced to the US market, and many believe that it helped change the automotive landscape. Nearly 30 years after its introduction, more than 7,000,000 Explorers have been sold. The Explorer is popular despite a few controversies over the years. Nearly 20 years ago, Ford Motor Company was involved in several lawsuits related to tire issues with the Explorer and several similar models. The lawsuits and recalls dominated the headlines, and Ford had to gain the trust of their consumers again. After the tire recall, Explorer sales rose again. However, the Explorer is at the center of another controversy, and it’s making people sick.
In 2017, the automotive website Jalopnik reported a lawsuit filed by an officer from the Austin Police Department. In the lawsuit, an officer alleged that his Ford Police Interceptor (a police variant of the civilian Ford Explorer) was leaking carbon monoxide from the vehicle’s exhaust into the cabin. At the time of the report, the officer was the 2nd person at the department to sue Ford Motor Company. The Austin Police Department pulled their entire fleet of 37 Police Interceptors because 7 officers had similar complaints.
CBS News has reported on this issue multiple times in the last six months. They shared the story of a police officer in Newport Beach who lost control of his Ford Police Interceptor while responding to a call. The vehicle swerved across multiple lanes of traffic and crashed into a tree. The officer suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractured eye socket, and several other injuries as a result of the accident.
Ford has investigated the complaints and found that they may be related to unsealed seams in the rear of the vehicle. However, no recall has been issued. The CBS report cited above stated that Ford has known about the issue since 2011. They have released 3 service bulletins to dealers to fix the problem. Ford released a statement to CBS news stating that there have been some rare instances in which a design flaw has resulted in consumers smelling exhaust fumes, but they claim it does not pose a safety risk.
Ford also appears to suggest that the police department may be to blame for the leak. In a statement to CBS News regarding the Police Interceptor complaints, Ford said:
“We have investigated and not found any carbon monoxide issue resulting from the design of our Police Interceptor Utility Vehicles. We know police modify these vehicles, which can contribute to exhaust-related issues. We have provided instructions to help seal these modifications and are ready to inspect any vehicles with this concern.”
The problem isn’t just with the police variant of the Explorer. Many civilians have filed lawsuits against Ford for similar issues. CBS has found over 450 complaints relating to similar issues. Jalopnik has found over 2,700 complaints regarding similar issues. Further, Jalopnik reported Ford was offering a free safety evaluation (not a recall) for Explorer owners.
Currently, the National Highway Traffic Saftey Administration is conducting an investigation. They issued a statement in July 2017 stating cracks in the Explorer’s exhaust manifold may be one possible source of the issue. However, that investigation is ongoing.
Ford is currently promoting their next Police Interceptor, a hybrid based on the next generation Explorer. The new vehicle may not have the same issues as the current version, but most departments don’t have the funds to replace their entire fleet. Ford is not the only manufacturer selling cars to police departments. Fiat-Chrysler has police-spec versions of their Dodge Charger and Durango, Chevrolet offers a modified Chevrolet Tahoe, and Nissan recently entered this category with a version of their Altima.
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