NHTSA closes preliminary evaluation of Ford Explorer SUVs

Article by Christian A., on June 20, 2014

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed its preliminary evaluation into power steering issues in MY2011-2013 Ford Explorers, which means the regulator was satisfied with the carmaker’s move to recall 195,527 units. The decision to recall the SUV highlights Ford’s want to avoid trouble just like what happened to General Motors who is facing a probe in the US Congress for its handling of cars with faulty ignition switches.

NHTSA commenced its evaluation of the 2011 Ford Explorer on June 19, 2012, citing 15 complaints claiming that power steering could suddenly fail. While Ford hardly contested the claims, the carmaker insisted the issue was rare, adding that it was not a legal violation.

Steve Kenner, global director of Ford’s automotive safety office, wrote to NHTSA in June 2013 that the carmaker believes that the loss of power steering assist does not present an unreasonable safety risk.

He argued that the Explorer could still be piloted without power steering, adding that it is easier to control a car without power steering at higher speeds, during which accidents happen more often.

When Ford issues a recall of the Explorer in May, the carmaker said it had knowledge of 15 accidents tied to the loss of power steering in the Explorer – all of which occurred at lower speeds.

In one instance, a driver failed to turn left at an intersection due to the loss of power steering and ran off the road into a shallow ditch, NHTSA records show.

Ford said that the issue was traced to an intermittent electrical connection in the power steering control module that could prompt a loss of the motor position sensor signal. Ford has instructed its dealers to inspect the module for diagnostic trouble codes, and to replace the steering gear if needed.

Ford redesigned the 2011 Explorer from the ground up as well as inside out to ensure that it caters to what customers demand from a modern sports utility vehicle.

Moray Callum, executive director of North America Design, remarked that while the carmaker entirely changed the new SUV, it remains immediately recognizable as a Ford Explorer. He noted that this is because the all-new Ford Explorer is a contemporary interpretation of the same capabilities that the SUV has been known for sans any compromise.

Meanwhile, Melvin Betancourt, design manager, remarked that the all-new Ford Explorer is a combination of a bold design language and an aerodynamic shape as underpinned by a rigid unibody platform. He quipped that the height, stance, and ground clearance as well as SUV cues of the new Explorer indicate its off-the-beaten-path capabilities.

The design team was made to take the challenge reinterpreting the new Ford Explorer as a modern, SUV for the 21st century. According to Betancourt, the new Ford Explorer starts with proportions and stance. It is marked by the agile, fluid lines that harmonize with its muscular sheet metal to lend the Explorer an athletic good appearance as well as unmatched aerodynamics.

He also quipped that the liftgate spoiler lip harmonized with the flexible lower air dam – now integrated into the fascia to deliver fuel economy that has been proven in the wind tunnel. Betancourt then said that blackened rockers on the Ford Explorer indicate the SUV’s rugged four-wheel-drive capability as well as “driver empowerment."

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