Do-Over: The NHTSA Change Their Minds

It isn’t often that malfunctioning automobile parts, initially rejected as the cause of accidents, get a do-over consideration by federal authorities. But that’s exactly what has happened with headlight failures involving some Ford and Mercury sedans that are at least ten years old.

After dismissing claims in 2008, Federal regulators are now shining fresh light on headlight problems after persistent reports of certain headlights abruptly shutting off. Because of the shut-offs, drivers have reported driving off the road and, occasionally, crashing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) investigation is focusing on more than a half-million of 2003-2005 Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis sedans. A petition received from the North Carolina Consumers Council last year is reportedly the impetus for the defect investigation. Investigations initiated by the NHTSA often lead to recalls.

Ford received 3,092 complaints of failing headlights in 2003-2005 Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis sedans, according to the NHTSA. The government itself received an additional 605 complaints of headlight failure in the same vehicles. Fifteen crashes and one injury have been reported to both Ford and the government. A driver struck a deer after his headlights died without warning in one case.

In some cases, consumers reported that activating the high beams by using the “flash to pass” levers on the steering column would result in the lights going out altogether when they let go of the lever.

In the previous investigation, the NHTSA closed the probe without finding sufficient evidence of a defect. At that time, Ford had received only 300 or so complaints. When the complaint level reached over ten times that, the agency decided to reopen the probe.

In an emailed statement, Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker asserted, “We will cooperate with NHTSA on this investigation, as we always do.”

Headlight problems are not unique to Ford. In 2014, General Motors recalled over 111,000 Chevrolet Corvettes over concerns that the headlights could fail once the circuit got hot. And in 2015, GM recalled an additional 180,000 Pontiacs and Buicks because the low-beam headlights were faulty.

If you have been injured by a faulty automobile, our personal injury attorneys can help get you on the road to recovery.


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