The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has certainly taken notice, notifying Ford this week that it was investigating the 2005 and 2006 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sables for sudden acceleration, as well as collecting information on 1.5 million Ford and Mercury models from 2001-2004.
According to one of the complaints filed with the NHTSA, which omits the person's name, replacing a troublesome cruise control cable stopped the car from continued high revving and uncontrollably speeding up.
The complaint, filed on Jan. 6, 2012, reads more like a Chilton's chapter than a harrowing life or death tale:
"My daughter called me frantic when the car started accelerating by itself when driving about 35 mph. She managed to slow down the vehicle with the brakes and went to a near parking lot. She put the car in park and the engine was at about 4,000 rpm and then she turned off the car. When I arrived 20 minutes later, I started the car and the engine was indeed at 4,000 rpm while in park. I tap twice on the gas pedal and the engine went back to normal range (below 1,000). I decided to drive it home. During the drive about 6 miles, the car repeated the incident. I went to the side of the road and tap on the gas pedal and again unstuck the pedal. Next day, I found that the cruise control cable was disconnected at the throttle cam. I reconnected but when I asked my kid to rev up the engine, it came out again and blocked the throttle cam from returning all the way and stuck at high rpm. The cable got replaced and issue is solved."
It may be solved for that 2005 Ford Taurus, but NHTSA announced Sunday it was opening an investigation into the sudden acceleration of every 2005 and 2006 Ford Taurus and its sibling the Mercury Sable after receiving complaints about sudden acceleration.
NHTSA has a reputation for taking all reported problems seriously, but especially accusations and possibilities of "sudden acceleration," an issue that has impacted a lot of car companies, notably Toyota, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and General Motors, with little concrete cause discovered by government investigators and the automakers themselves.
Most recently, Toyota faced an enormous recall of more than 14 million vehicles in 2009 and 2010 in which it replaced slipping floor-mats that were prone to jamming behind the accelerator pedal, as well as a defective batch of accelerator pedal parts. There was a subsequent investigation by the government that included NASA engineers and the National Academy of Science, which investigated potential flaws in the electronic throttle control. Those investigations could find no conclusive evidence of such a flaw. Nevertheless, Toyota was fined more than $16 million by NHTSA for not reporting fatal accidents in a timely manner.
Attorneys and investigators, though, are still trying to prove a flaw in Toyota's electronics. Read a Huffington Post investigation here, as well as Toyota's response here.
Other complaints pose solutions for Ford recall
Other complaints on the 2005-2006 Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable (this recall has nothing to do with today's new Tauruses or any other model year) offer similar advice:
"It appears there is something wrong with the cruise control cable, as it was twisted and as soon as it was untwisted, the cruise control begins to work correctly and the vehicle stops accelerating on its own. However, it does it again within a few days. ... It is very dangerous and could easily get someone injured or worse," said another complainant of the Sept. 25, 2010 incident.
Some noted that dealers or mechanics did extensive work such as replacing the entire throttle assembly, cleaning injectors as well as replacing the cruise control cable. At the time of the work, one noted, Ford would not cover the repairs because there had been no recall.
Maybe Ford will reconsider those costs.
"The agency is actively investigating a potential issue with a stuck throttle resulting from cruise control cable detachment involving certain Ford vehicles," said Lynda Tran, a NHTSA spokeswoman, in an email. "While NHTSA is not aware of any alleged crashes, injuries, or deaths, the agency is carefully evaluating all available data and will share any findings upon conclusion of its investigation."
NHTSA's Jeffery Quandt, chief of the Vehicle Control Division, Office of Defects Investigation, sent a letter to Ford Motor Co. officials on Tuesday informing the carmaker that it opened an investigation into the sudden acceleration of the 2005 and 2006 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable after collecting 30 different complaints of cruise control cables coming loose at the throttle body and then getting tangled with the assembly and not allowing the car to return to idle. The letter added that it also wanted additional information on 2001-2004 peer vehicles.
Daniel Pierce, a Ford spokesman, said Thursday, "We are aware of the NHTSA investigation and, as always, will cooperate fully with the agency."
Since the investigation is just beginning, Ford did not have any other information at available at this time, he added.