The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is advancing its original probe into a Ford inquiry relating to the Blue Oval’s popular 2016 Explorer SUV. The probe has been expanded to 1.33 million vehicles, after reports of interior exhaust odors leading to crashes and injuries.
Ford said it is committed to addressing the problem, and is working with police, NHTSA, and other organizations to resolve whatever the issue might be. The automaker has issued multiple technical service bulletins related to the exhaust problem, responding to complaints from police fleets and other owners.
NHTSA’s advancement of its probe into the engineering analysis phase means the next step, if one will be taken, is an official claim to demand the automaker to conduct a recall if NHTSA deems the vehicles pose an unreasonable risk.
Since 2016, NHTSA has said it possesses no substantive data or actual evidence (like blood tests from drivers) that would support a claim that any crash-related injuries were caused by poisoning from exhaust fumes.
However, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, reported the Austin Police Department pulled 40 Ford Explorers from service this month, after several officers fell ill after reporting exposure to carbon monoxide.
Further, a recent development in the agency’s investigation found that the Police Interceptor model of the Explorer had been experiencing minor cracks in the exhaust manifold, which NHTSA said may explain the exhaust odor.
More developments are likely to present themselves as NHTSA progresses with its engineering analysis phase.