WASHINGTON -- Federal safety officials have opened a preliminary investigation of 1995-2003 Ford Windstars after collecting 130 consumer complaints about vehicle fires.
The minivans have the same kind of cruise control switch that led Ford Motor Co. to recall more than 10 million cars and trucks between 1999 and early this year -- after the switch was linked to vehicle fires.
Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Moore said Monday that the switch in the Windstars is not powered at all times. The switches in the recalled vehicles were part of live electrical circuits, even when engines were turned off, a fact that was suspected of contributing to the fires.
Moore said the automaker believes the Windstars do not have an elevated risk of fire, but is cooperating with the investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
If the investigation does lead to another recall, it could involve as many as 1.7 million vehicles, NHTSA estimated.
The agency said that 36 of the 130 complaints have been made in the past year. Some fires occurred while engines were running. Some were while vehicles were parked, NHTSA said, adding that two claim the fires damaged houses.