Reporting Jeff Gilbert
The government has upgraded its investigation into Ford Windstar minivans amid additional concerns over corrosion in the vehicles.
Ford is currently recalling around 600 thousand Windstars fromthe 1998-2003 model years, because of concerns their axles could rust. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in a posting on its website Wednesday that it has begun an engineering analysis into a second issue.
The government says it has received 346 complaints of corrosion and breaking of the front subframe, which carries the engine, transaxle, steering rack and front suspension. NHTSA says it is trying to learn more about the alleged defect.
“We are aware of the investigation and will fully cooperate in the matter, as we always do,” said Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood.
The current recall has been a difficult one, as Ford works to inspect, and repair vehicles that are a decade old. In some cases, they’ve decided to buy back vehicles from customers, in others, the customers have had to wait until parts are available for repair.
“If we find a crack in the axle, we will offer them a rental vehicle until we are able to repair the vehicle early next year,” Sherwood told WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert.
Safety activists have criticized Ford for moving too slowly. The criticizm mounting after a Massachusetts man died in a crash involving a Windstar, three days before receiving his recall notice.
Sherwood saying Ford has cooperated with investigators all along, and originally didn’t believe there was a safety risk. But, when their own investigation showed something different, they ordered the recall voluntarily.
“Once we did see evidence of something different than our original assessment, we did move quickly to assess the issue.”
2010 has been a big year for vehicle recalls, pushed on by Toyota’s safety actions early in the year. Wards Auto Report has documented 136 recalls this year, with 17.2 million vehicles involved.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.