North Carolina Consumers Council Urges NHTSA to Investigate Ford and Mercury Vehicles with Defective Headlights

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The North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC), a nonprofit consumer education and protection organization, is urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to open a defect investigation into model year 2003-2005 Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Marquis vehicles experiencing headlight control module failures resulting in loss of headlamp function and/or loss of all exterior lighting.

The North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC), a nonprofit consumer education and protection organization, is urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to open a defect investigation into model year 2003-2005 Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Marquis vehicles experiencing headlight control module failures resulting in loss of headlamp function and/or loss of all exterior lighting.

In a defect petition letter to NHTSA dated Thursday, October 2, 2014, NCCC cites a consumer complaint that it received involving a 2005 Mercury Grand Marquis that was diagnosed as having a failed lighting control module by a Ford dealership. The vehicle owner, however, has been unable to have the vehicle repaired due to lack of available parts. The complainant has been without functioning headlights for more than four months.

“We are calling on NHTSA to act promptly and open a Preliminary Evaluation into this very serious safety matter,” said NCCC President Sandra Bullock. “Consumers should not have to put themselves or others at risk on the road, nor should they have to park their vehicle indefinitely due to the unavailability of parts.”

According to NCCC, all of the 2003-2005 Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Marquis vehicles in question are subject to a Customer Satisfaction Program issued by Ford that extended the warranty for the lighting control module to be covered for 15 years or 250,000 miles. The vehicles had also been previously investigated by NHTSA for the exact same issue. That investigation was opened on November 26, 2008 and closed on March 24, 2009. (See NHSTA Office of Defects Investigation Opening Resume: http://tinyurl.com/l36p32u and Closing Resume: http://tinyurl.com/lq6cvsu)

“NHTSA closed its previous investigation into these vehicles claiming that no safety-related defect had been found and that the continued use of agency resources to look into the matter further wasn’t warranted,” said Bullock. “The agency came to that conclusion despite having received 306 complaints from concerned Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis owners. We find it puzzling that NHTSA didn’t view the sudden loss of all exterior lighting while driving at night as a safety risk. ”

Bullock went on to point out that during NHTSA’s 2008-2009 investigation into the matter, after receiving more than 2,000 warranty claims involving exterior lighting malfunctions, Ford itself admitted that the lighting control modules on these vehicles contained defective solder joints on the printed circuit board. (See letter from Ford to ODI Safety Assurance Director Kathleen C. DeMeter dated January 30, 2009: http://tinyurl.com/p6jzd8y)

“Given these facts and the agency’s recent failures to properly investigate other high-profile auto safety defects, like the GM ignition switch debacle, one certainly has to question NHTSA’s decision to so hastily close the 2009 investigation when it did,” she added.

According to NCCC’s defect petition, to date there have been more than 600 consumer complaints filed with NHTSA specifically pertaining to this issue. Seven of those reports cite vehicle crashes linked to sudden headlight failure. The petition states that neither Ford dealership personnel nor Ford Motor Company Customer Relationship Center representatives have been able to assist concerned vehicle owners or advise when replacement parts will be available.

“With the clear risk that these alleged defective headlight control modules pose, we believe that this circumstance absolutely warrants an investigation,” Bullock continued. “We can’t allow unsafe vehicles to simply remain on the road unrepaired. We hope that NHTSA and Ford will work together to quickly remedy this situation.”

By law, NHTSA has 120 days to respond to NCCC’s defect petition.

About NCCC
Founded in 1968, the North Carolina Consumers Council (NCCC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has been standing up for North Carolina consumers for more than 45 years. With a mission of promoting consumer education, consumer awareness and consumer protection across the state and beyond, it is NCCC’s primary objective to provide consumers with the unbiased facts and information they need to make smart, well-informed decisions in today’s increasingly complex consumer marketplace. To find out more, visit http://www.NCconsumer.org.

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