Seven years worth of Ford Explorers are a step closer to recall in the U.S. over mounting reports of exhaust fumes leaking inside.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken an interim step toward prompting the recall of 1.3 million 2011-2017 Ford Explorers, including 2016-2017 Explorer Police Interceptor models, according to a posting on the agency’s website. This comes more than a year after NHTSA first started looking into odors and exhaust issues in the vehicles.
NHTSA said on its website that it has upgraded the probe to an "engineering analysis" after receiving at least 2,719 complaints pertaining to those model year Explorers.
“Our decisions are driven by the data available," Michael Levine, a Ford Motor Co. spokesman, said in an email Saturday. “When the data indicates a safety recall is needed, we move quickly on behalf of our customers."
Three crashes and 41 injuries have been potentially linked to the issue since July 1, 2016, according to NHTSA. Some cases included complaints of nausea, headaches and loss of consciousness, all symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
While NHTSA said it hasn’t found substantive data to show that carbon monoxide was responsible for any of the incidents, preliminary testing suggested that “CO levels may be elevated in certain driving scenarios.”
In August, a police officer in Auburn, Mass., reportedly passed out and crashed while driving a Ford Explorer SUV specially designed for law enforcement use. He tested positive for the noxious gas. A Ford representative at the time told CBS News it would be "premature to draw conclusions" from the incident and said a closer analysis of the car revealed a carbon monoxide concentration of 13 parts per million.
The current permissible exposure limit established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is 50 parts per million.
Ford contended that aftermarket modifications were responsible for any carbon monoxide exposure in that incident, and the Auburn police later agreed in a statement on Facebook. The company has said that carbon monoxide, which is odorless, has been an issue only in police models of the Explorer, while other incident reports cite exhaust smells.
In 2012 and 2014, the company issued technical bulletins to dealers to alert them of complaints regarding "an exhaust odor in the vehicle."
The Explorer's U.S. sales rose 5.1 percent to 177,827 units through August. It has been outsold by the smaller Escape, which accounted for 208,303 deliveries during the eight-month period.