Here’s Why Ford is Under Investigation

Complaints about Ford (NYSE:F) minivans have prompted federal safety regulators to announce an upgrade to their investigation into more than 82,000 automobiles. The complaints concern third-row seats in the 2004 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans experiencing severe rust.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has reviewed 22 complaints from salt belt states. The states allege severe corrosion at the rear wheel wells, which has caused the administration to up its probe from an “investigation” to an “engineering analysis.” According to the complaints, the malfunction has caused difficulty or inability to latch the rear seat. Other reports claim that the rust caused the anchor plate to detach from the vehicle rear wheel.

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Under the investigation, the government agency is comparing the 2004 vehicles with the 2005-2007 Freestar/Monterey minivans that appear to have a seat design similar to the vehicles currently under scrutiny. NHTSA has made no indication that any similar complaints have been made for the 2005-2007 models.

The preliminary investigation commenced in December, and the NHTSA said that it was unaware of any crashes or injuries resulting from the issue. The government agency has asked Nissan Motor Co. to disclose any similar incidents with its 2003-2004 minivans to compare the rate of failure in Ford’s minivans.

In August, NHTSA announced that it was ending its investigation into 2004-2007 Ford Freestar and Mercury Montery minivans over engine stalls and other problems connected to water leaking onto a module.

Ford (NYSE:F) said it is cooperating with the investigation.