By on December 29, 2015


The New York Times reported that federal regulators have received about 150 complaints over four years about power steering failures in the 2012 model year Ford Focus, including 124 crashes with injuries, with no recourse. One crash reportedly killed an 89-year-old New Jersey woman, although federal investigators concluded, “a steering failure is most likely not implicated,” according to the New York Times.

Despite the widespread reports by owners and the manufacturer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t asked Ford to recall the car. Ford has issued two service bulletins to dealers to inform consumers that the electric-assisted steering could lose power on startup and “wander” at highway speeds.

Safety authorities told the New York Times that its investigations revealed that in most of the crashes the fault was with the steering wheel and not necessarily the power steering.

But issues with the 2012 Ford Focus’ steering are fairly well known.

In 2012, Safety Research, a safety group, pointed to the 2012 Focus as having consistent problems with its steering. Early warning report data showed that there were 13 injury claims related to the Focus’s steering, according to the group. In 2014, the group also put the 2012 Focus on the top of its Vehicle Watch List for its reported steering problems.

Last year, owners sued Ford for steering problems in its Focus and Fusion models, all related to electric power steering. In October 2015, Ford filed to dismiss the lawsuit, but said that it recalled affected Fusions in May 2015 because it acknowledged that a defect was found by the Chinese supplier that made the steering modules, according to court documents obtained by TTAC.

The printed circuit boards that could malfunction were not included in the electric power system in the Focus, Ford argued in its filing.

A California judge is expected to rule on Ford’s motion to dismiss in February.

Meanwhile, safety officials are wondering why the automaker hasn’t recalled its Focus to inspect the steering systems, according to the New York Times.

Joan Claybrook, who led NHTSA from 1977 to 1981, told the newspaper that Ford’s report of 100 injuries is “very significant and is certainly something NHTSA should address.”

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18 Comments on “Report: Ford, Regulators Aware of Power Steering Issues, Still No Recall...”

  • avatar

    Everyone with a FWD econobox should file a class action lawsuit for dead, emotionless steering with no road feel and false advertising of “sporty handling”.

    • 0 avatar

      There are plenty of FWD econoboxes with more steering feel than your vehicles. Many would also spank your vehicles around a tight course.

      If you’re ever in Western Canada with your 300 in the summer, let me know. We’ll give you an embarrassing demo!

    • 0 avatar

      How exactly do you define sporty?

      Is this sporty?


      Is this sporty?

      There are cars for sale today that happen to be FWD but also manage a sub 8 minute lap time for the ring. What I mean is, is somebody having a sporty experience on the ring in a FWD econobox while they overtake somebody else in a RWD or AWD car? Would you argue that the person in the FWD econobox doing the overtaking is not having a sporty experience but the person being passed is because they have more steering feel but are lapping at a slower pace than a FWD econobox.

      BTW the ultimate econobox on sale now is made by your MFG of preference… mmmm ProMaster, boxy, FWD, economical. How is the steering feel in the ProMaster?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Sifting through all the incidents could be almost as laborious as the GM ignition thing. Not all the claims blaming the steering system will be valid. Sometimes the problem really is the loose nut behind the wheel.

    What’s remarkable, though, is that so many claims have piled up in such a short time. Ford would do well to play ball.

  • avatar

    Let’s see, this problem was identified before November 2012, and Ford wants to motion to dismiss?

    I guess steering working 99% of the time is good enough.

    • 0 avatar

      well… 99.9848%

      quick googling:

      darn near a million Foci sold in US & Canada alone (987,846 from 2012 to now), even if you assume all 150 complaints are valid claims…

      I’m all for making sure willful fraud and coverups aren’t taking place (a la Takata). But it seems strange to me that 150 complaints out of a million or so sold (just in north america!) is considered “…widespread reports by owners and the manufacturer,”

      Cars have gotten so much safer over the years that we are at the point where 0.0152% of cars affected is considered “widespread”?

      • 0 avatar

        OK correcting myself here, apparently the issue is only on 2012 model year Focus, and I’ll only count US sales as NHTSA complaints only apply to US market cars. 245,992 Foci sold in 2012, 150 claims, so say 0.06% is “widespread.”

        I took a look at the cited Safety Research & Strategies, Inc article, it seems to consist primarily of un-cited, un-substantiated claims & complaints lifted from forums? Considering the source is apparently a for-profit consulting company, quoting forum postings/rants to sensationalize seems a tad self-interested motivation. Nothing against the company, just doesn’t seem the most un-biased source…

        Not the kind of source I’d expect to be cited by TTAC…

        • 0 avatar
          jim brewer

          I’d take it seriously. Only a tiny fraction of defects are going to result in a written complaint to the NHTSA.

          Moreover, the nature of the complaint isn’t inherently suspect. Unlike OMG! The brakes failed!

        • 0 avatar

          I’d take it seriously as well. GM finally recalled with Cobalt/G5 for steering issues. When my aunt had hers the steering quit twice at random and never did it again. Turns out there WAS a problem.

  • avatar

    Safety authorities told the New York Times that its investigations revealed that in most of the crashes the fault was with the steering wheel and not necessarily the power steering.

    What could go wrong with the steering wheel? Did it fall into the driver’s lap? Break in two? Something odd here, we’re not getting the whole story.

  • avatar

    Honda had several complaints to NHTSA regarding similar failures in 2013-2015 Accords. (Couple-hundred, maybe.)

    To their credit, they quickly found a solution and put it out to the dealers — just had mine flashed the other day! (For whatever reason, the “fail-soft” mode was zero-assist and a complete EPS shutdown. Now, it would simply be like hydraulic failure, where the EPS piece of it, I think, would simply “freewheel,” and the driver wouldn’t be fighting it.)

  • avatar

    Why is this just regarding the 2012 Focus? As far as I know, Ford has been having fairly widespread electric steering failures in almost ALL of its cars from ’10-’14.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford gets its electric steering modules from Chinese suppliers? Since when? There was once a time when Detroit makers tolerated so many defects per 1,000, or 10,000. People had accidents, but blame was usually assigned to drivers, with the occasional equipment failure ascribed to “bad luck”.

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