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Link: http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0...utos-294578.htm

Nader wants government to issue advisory on Ford investigation

Safety advocate asks for a warning on cruise control switch in Ford pickups and SUVs that may have caused engine fires

By Ken Thomas / Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Friday urged the government to warn consumers about Ford Motor Co. pickups and sport utility trucks being investigated for a potential defect that may have caused engine fires.

Nader, a longtime auto safety advocate, wrote to Dr. Jeffrey Runge, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, asking him to advise the public about "life-threatening hazards" from a cruise control switch in Ford pickups and SUVs.

Nader cited a recent CNN report in which NHTSA said any Ford owner having problems with the switch should take the vehicle to a Ford dealer and avoid parking it in a garage. The public should receive the "same expert safety advice," Nader said.

"Prudence dictates you quickly issue a consumer advisory," Nader wrote.

NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson said the agency had no plans to issue the advisory and noted that the advice has been given to other news organizations in the context of a voluntary recall issued by Ford in January.

About 792,000 Ford F-150 pickups, Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators from the 2000 model year, along with the 2001 F-Series Supercrew truck, were recalled because of the cruise control switch.

In March, the government opened an inquiry of Ford F-150 pickups from the 1995-1999 and 2001-2002 model years, and Ford Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators from the 1997-1999 and 2001-2002 model years. Investigations by both NHTSA and Ford are pending.

"We have not determined whether or not there is a defect in the first place," Tyson said. Issuing an advisory "would prejudge the outcome of a defect investigation that is still in progress," he said.

The agency has received more than 550 complaints of engine fires from the cruise control switch in the Ford models. Tyson said no injuries or fatalities have been reported to the agency.

There have been allegations of three deaths in cases cited in news reports or lawsuits in Iowa, Georgia and Arkansas, Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said. Kinley said Ford did not believe an advisory was needed because it has notified vehicle owners of the recall and inquiry.

In the Iowa case, 74-year-old Darletta Mohlis of Westgate died in a May 2 house fire. Her husband, Earl Mohlis, was injured. The family has sued Ford, arguing the fire originated from a faulty switch in the vehicle.

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