The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating hundreds of reports that 2004-2005 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans are fitted with defective transmissions that could dangerously fail without warning. Most alarming is that many of the transmissions reportedly fail at highway speeds. In a common complaint, the engine will suddenly surge and then all power is immediately lost. The vehicle is forced to coast powerlessly to a safe spot out of the flow of traffic. Angry owners have flooded message boards to report incidents of transmission failures which leave them stranded and stuck with $3,500 repair bills.

To date, there have been 654 customer complaints and 2,791 warranty claims. However, according to NHTSA, as many as 205,000 vehicles may be affected. The investigation, expected to take a year, will focus on the torque converter output shaft which drives the wheels. Ford Motor Co. has not yet released an official statement regarding the investigation.

[Source: Automotive News, subs. req'd]