U.S. Upgrades Safety Probe of Ford, Mercury Models

August 1, 2011

U.S. safety regulators have upgraded an investigation into consumer complaints that 2010 model year Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan cars may suffer from wheel stud fractures that could cause a wheel to come off.

The preliminary investigation of 317,315 Ford Motor Co. mid-sized sedans was upgraded to an engineering analysis, according to information posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website.

Regulators said Ford’s investigation of the root cause of the alleged defect is ongoing, so it upgraded its probe to further study the potential problem.

“We’ll fully cooperate with the government as they review this matter,” Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood said. “We are not aware at this point of any allegations of injuries related to this matter.”

There were 29 complaints and 128 warranty claims related to complaints of fractures in one or more wheel mounting studs on the cars, according to NHTSA, which said it is aware of four reported incidents in which a wheel separated from a car related to the alleged defect.

An engineering analysis typically follows a preliminary investigation, as safety regulators look into a potential problem. These types of probes can, but do not always, lead to recalls should NHTSA determine a safety issue needs to be addressed by a manufacturer.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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