The Center for Auto Safety is again calling on Ford Motor Co. to recall 1.3 million Ford Explorer crossovers over an increasing number of complaints that they leak carbon monoxide.
The group, which posted a letter addressed to Ford CEO Jim Hackett on Tuesday, claims roughly 1,400 driver complaints have been logged with NHTSA regarding exhaust leaks. NHTSA, the nation's top auto safety regulator, opened its investigation in July 2016, the center says.
The center originally asked the automaker to recall the 2011-17 model year vehicles in October.
Ford said in October that it would offer free repairs for the affected vehicles but that its own investigation had not found "carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day."
In response to the center's letter, Ford doubled-down Tuesday on its decision not to issue a recall.
"Explorers are safe," spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt said in a statement. "Ford's investigation and extensive testing has not found carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day. The safety of our customers is paramount. We encourage customers with carbon monoxide concerns to bring their vehicle to their local Ford dealer for a free service designed to reduce the concern. If they are not satisfied with the service, we encourage them to call our dedicated hotline at 888-260-5575."
Despite not issuing a recall, Ford has issued four technical service bulletins related to the exhaust odor issue to address complaints from police fleets and other owners.
Ford has separately addressed concerns from police agencies, who last year reported two crashes that may be linked to carbon monoxide exposure and a third incident involving injuries related to carbon monoxide exposure in Explorer-based Police Interceptors. Those problems, Ford said, stemmed from modifications police agencies made to the vehicles after they left the factory. The automaker has offered to cover the costs to repair those police vehicles.
Regarding the public’s Explorer concerns, Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said in a statement that Ford “needs to stop sending mixed messages to Explorer owners and passengers, including senior citizens and parents of young children, that the vehicles are 'safe,' and that repairs are available only for 'peace of mind.' Since some Ford dealers are responsibly replacing cracked exhaust manifolds, it is time for Ford to take a more serious step, recall all of these vehicles, and inspect and replace cracked exhaust manifolds."
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