U.S. regulators investigate Ford adjustable pedals

DETROIT, April 22 Reutershas reported that U.S. federal safety regulators have opened an investigation into adjustable brake and accelerator pedals on more than 400,000 Ford Motor Co. sedans after complaints that the pedals were built too close together.

The probe adds to a raft of recalls and quality problems at the world's second-largest automaker in recent months, just as it launches a turnaround plan to staunch losses and build profits of $7 billion by the middle of the decade.

The investigation by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers 2000 and 2001 model year Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable sedans with pedals attached to an electric motor, which allows drivers to shift the pedals forward or backward.

NHTSA said it received 22 complaints that the pedals are so close that drivers are prone to step on the brake and accelerator accidentally at the same time. The complaints include reports of five crashes.

One owner said her 2001 Sable was crashed three times by three different drivers -- including a Ford dealership mechanic -- due to the problem, the agency said.

Ford sells the power pedals as standard equipment on the Sable and as optional equipment on the Taurus. Several other Ford vehicles, including the company's Explorer sport utility vehicle, also offer the feature.

Ford spokesman Todd Nissen said the company is aware of NHTSA's investigation and is cooperating. No reports of injuries have been linked to the problem.

NHTSA also said on Monday it opened an investigation into the 2000 model year Ford Focus after seven reports of fires starting near the battery. It already has three other investigations involving possible defects in the Focus under way.

The agency also opened two other investigations related to vehicle fires. NHTSA said it had received five complaints of driver's seats catching fire in 1996 and 1997 Volvo 850 and 70 series vehicles while the cars were being driven. Two of the fires caused more than $12,000 in damage.

NHTSA will also investigate 13 reports of engine compartment fires in Kia Motors Corp.'s (00270.KS) Sephia cars from 1998 to 2000. The complaints allege a battery cable chafes against the transmission dipstick tube, causing an electrical short.

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