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Posted on Tue, Jan. 27, 2004

Feds open new investigation into Crown Victoria
Associated Press

DETROIT - The federal government has opened a new investigation into the Ford Crown Victoria, this time centering on the vehicle's rear axle design.

The latest probe covers Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car sedans as well as the Crown Victoria. A total of 287,819 vehicles are covered, including both civilian models and the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor.

Over the last two years, the sedan has been the subject of numerous lawsuits and safety complaints from police departments.

The new investigation was launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week, after officials received complaints from two police departments, The Detroit News reported in a Tuesday story.

The police reported four separate incidents in which Crown Victoria axles had fractured or the rear wheel assembly had separated. The police complaints also noted unusual axle wear on large numbers of 2003 police cruisers.

Ford issued a technical service bulletin to dealers on March 17 warning of "premature wear" of the rear axle shaft and the rear axle bearings.

The inquiry was described as preliminary. NHTSA said it wanted to gather more information about the alleged safety problem.

Ford officials did not return phone calls requesting comment.

The Crown Victoria has been battered by complaints from police departments across the country. At least 14 police officers have died in fire-related crashes since 1983.

The new NHTSA investigation is unrelated to the Crown Victoria's fuel tank design, the central concern of police departments that have asked Ford to recall and repair the sedan.

NHTSA closed an investigation into the gas tank design in October 2002, saying the vehicle met federal safety standards and the overall risk in fire-related crashes was similar between the Crown Victoria and Chevrolet Caprice police vehicles.

Still, police departments in Texas, Arizona and Louisiana suspended Crown Victoria purchases over concerns about the gas tank design.

Ford has offered to pay for the installation of shields around the gas tanks on police Crown Victorias. It also announced in August that it would offer fire-suppression technology as an option on patrol cars in 2005 but could not retrofit existing models.
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