By on October 19, 2017

Ford Police Interceptor Utility

Two Austin-based police officers have filed lawsuits against Ford Motor Company after being incapacitated by carbon monoxide that leaked into the cabin of their Interceptor Utilities. Ford finds itself flooded with hundreds of complaints over unacceptable carbon monoxide levels in 2011-2017 Ford Explorers, receiving the most flack from police departments with problematic SUVs. Officers across America have complained of dizziness while driving, with some requiring hospitalization.

The issue had become so bad that Austin’s police department actually pulled about 400 Explorer-based squad cars from its motor pool. Scrambling for a solution, Ford has implemented a special task force to investigate the problem and develop a solution. The automaker also offered to fix 1.33 million Explorers to ensure there is no exhaust leak, but was quick to remind everyone this wasn’t a recall, as no U.S. government standard for in-vehicle carbon monoxide levels exists. 

Unfortunately for Ford, an all-hands-on-deck response hasn’t stopped lawsuits. Operating under the assumption that Ford was aware of the leaks as early as 2012, officers in California, Texas, and Louisiana have also filed claims against the manufacturer.

Ford initially attributed the officers’ plight to aftermarket modifications necessary on some law enforcement vehicles that may have allowed exhaust gases to enter the rear of the vehicle. However, with consumer models suffering from similar gassing problems, those earlier modifications may have only exacerbated an already existing issue.

According to My Statesman, the most recent suit from Austin asks for unspecified damages to pay for medical bills, lost wages, future earnings, and to compensate Officer Ryan Hancock and his wife for pain and suffering.

“We’re suing Ford because they designed, manufactured and sold a defective product,” said Brian Chase, the attorney representing the Hancocks. “It’s important to get the word out that these Ford Explorers have a problem leaking carbon monoxide and Ford hasn’t been able to fix it.”

Chase said the Austin police cases are only two of the roughly 30 suits across the country resulting from the Explorer-linked carbon monoxide issue.

Ford has maintained that its SUVs are safe, despite offering repairs at no charge to the customer, and has said it is unable to comment further due to the nature of the pending lawsuits. Preliminary investigations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration uncovered cracks in the exhaust manifolds of some Ford Explorers in July. It is continuing its research to assess how common this problem is and if it might have anything to do with the proposed leaks. As of now, it doesn’t have any evidence to indicate the incidents were a direct result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

However, in the Hancock case, the claim has already been made that Ford was well aware of a problem. It cites a company-issued 2012 bulletin to dealers that references an exhaust smell in the cabin of some SUVs and testimony from a Ford representative in a Florida case from 2015 who suggested the exhaust problems could be a design flaw. Although the representative was not referencing carbon monoxide specifically, Chase wants to make the case that a possible exhaust leak would have contained the odorless monoxide gas.

“In sum, Ford knew that its Ford Explorer vehicles and Police Interceptor Utility vehicles, (including Hancock’s APD cruiser), were defective in that the design of those vehicles allowed deadly exhaust fumes, including poisonous carbon monoxide, to enter the passenger compartment,” the lawsuit claims. “[The] suggested repairs failed to fix the problem.”

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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19 Comments on “Police Officers Suing Ford Over Alleged Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Interceptor SUVs [UPDATED]...”


  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    There’s a big difference between a design flaw and an assembly defect like manifold welds. I’m surprised the NHTSA hasn’t stepped in, monoxide level standards or not. A safety issue doesn’t require a standard to be violated, does it?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Where there is smoke…

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’ve considered buying a dark coloured used Explorer since everyone now associates the current generation with cop vehicles. But I don’t want to die of CO poisoning, so maybe not.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    This had to be a mistake that somehow got through. Every single OEM engineer I ever worked with took occupant safety super seriously. There was probably even a CO2 test during fleet testing before launch. I would be surprised if there wasn’t. these guys really sweat these details. I’m flummoxed.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      At Ford, profits were put ahead of everything.

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        I’m pretty jaded, but even I don’t think this happened due to cost. I’ve endured too many design, spec, DFMEA, DVP&R, PFMEA, Ctrl Plan and campaign prevention reviews to think this was just skipped, or was a budget matter. I suspect a change occured that flew under the radar somehow. Maybe a last minute soft to hard tool change, or an unintended supplier production flaw, maybe one of those intermittent multi-causal problems. I just don’t know, but the folks working on it do, and they will come up with a fix right quick. I wish them luck. I know when this hit, some of them probably lost sleep over it.

      • 0 avatar
        hamish42

        You mean lie the exploding Pinto’s? They actually calculated the cost of lawsuits vs the cost of recall of repair – putting the bottom line ahead of human lives. I will never buy a Ford under any circumstances.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          That long-running meme was debunked years ago, so you can buy a Ford now.

          http://wardsauto.com/blog/my-somewhat-begrudging-apology-ford-pinto

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            you’re wasting your breath. the “Pinto Memo” was never about the Pinto in the first place.

            But we as a society are so bullheaded and never want to admit we’re wrong about anything. We will form a strong opinion based on hearsay, then stubbornly ignore mountains and mountains of actual evidence to the contrary.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Are we sure these officers weren’t just “holding the carbon monoxide for a friend”?

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    It seems Ford is suffering an inordinate amount of defects lately.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      It’s really not shocking. When your CEO drastically lowers quality to boost profits, this is the result. This is all Big Al and his cost cutting. He made the profits and then left for someone else to clean it up. Hence why Fields was never going to succeed. He had too much to clean up.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    As long as a full recall of their best selling SUV costs more then dodging the problem, dodging the problem will be Job 1.

    Even a few out of court settlements are still cheaper then the labor and logistics costs of actually recalling the vehicles and fixing the issue- assuming an engineering change is even possible.

    • 0 avatar
      kurkosdr

      And this is the kind of attitude that will cost them in the long run. Between this fiasco and the Powershift one, I wouldn’t buy one of their vehicles for the next 20 years.

      How long ’till they are at Capitol Hill asking for a bailout?

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    “Ford initially attributed the officers’ plight to aftermarket modifications necessary on some law enforcement vehicles that may have allowed exhaust gases to enter the rear of the vehicle.”

    Wonder if this is coming up because cop car coachbuilders aren’t as used to sealing every hole they make in the passenger compartment. I’m not sure how good the sealing is between the trunk and cabin of a Taurus, but that’s gotta behave differently than the open interior of an SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      Most of the holes go on top of the vehicle on cop cars..not as much in the firewall. In big cities departments use reputable installers such as Dana Safety and others. Yes, they charge an arm and a leg for a set of lights. Their undercover package..nothing special just 2 LEDs in the grille, siren, headlights/taillight flashers and small LED by the 3rd brake light costs 2500. But they do a good job. Federal LEO vehicles on the other hand are mostly fitted in special federal penitentiaries. I can see those being all screwed up and actually I did see them.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      As the article points out, the CO problem extends to some unmodified retail customers too. That indicates a problem independent of police vehicle modifications. If those mods are just making it worse, that’s a big clue as to where to look. It doesn’t mean finding the problem will be easy.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    But the tires are great. Just great!

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    I can’t, for the life of me, understand why PDs use the Explorer. Why??? I could understand the CVPI, which was a solid, dependable vehicle that even non-Ford guys (like myself) would have to admit.

    The Explorer with the EcoBust doesn’t seem like it will hold up long term. I wonder if they will be worth little more scrap value when they get surplused. There are lots of problems with EcoBoost, some of them catastrophic. I’ll have to ask my cop friend about how often they hit the shop the next time I see him. I do know he liked the Chargers except for lack of room, but lack of room is better than rotating the fleet in and out of the shop.

    Now that there’s now worries about CO poisoning, the answer is obvious: Charger (or Durango, if an SUV is necessary). Hemi V8 or Pentastar V6, take a pick.

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