Report: Ford, Regulators Aware of Power Steering Issues, Still No Recall

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole
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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.”

Aaron Cole
Aaron Cole

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  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Dec 29, 2015

    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.)

  • Davekaybsc Davekaybsc on Dec 29, 2015

    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.

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Dec 30, 2015

      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".

  • MaintenanceCosts So there is no Sonata trim without some type of Theta engine.It seems like they've been doing a bit better when attached to a hybrid system, so that's probably the one to get, but they're going to have to go several years without further engine troubles before I'd trust a H/K ICE product again.
  • Lou_BC Full sized sort of autonomous RC's. Cute.
  • Art_Vandelay Autonomous capabilities are being deployed (or planned anyway) in multiple combat vehicles. Should be fun from my perspective
  • Drew8MR Interior is trivial now you can get repro everything in various levels of quality. Getting the top sorted will be a couple grand, but I'd drive it as it. I drove a $1500 67 GTO convertible for 20 years, not every old car needs to be like new.
  • John Not everyone pays that much for power. Mine is 10 cents per kw…..