Jeanette Mutchler — a 70-year-old retiree from Fort Madison, Iowa and grandmother of nine — said she experienced high revving in her 2005 Taurus as she drove home last Friday. “I was driving down a steep hill and coming to a stop sign and the car felt like it didn’t want to stop. It kept revving up, wanting to lunge forward,” Mutchler said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
She said she rode the brakes and was able to stop the Taurus at the stop sign. “It’s very scary. I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” she said, adding that she has to drive her 91-year-old mother to Iowa City for an eye exam on Thursday. She said she plans to drive her mom’s 1992 Buick LeSabre instead.
Her son-in-law John Johnson of Burlington, said he had called the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to report the incident. The Taurus has about 105,000 miles of use and Mutchler said the cruise control had stopped working about a week before the incident.
The incident was especially harrowing for Mutchler because her late husband, a truck driver, was killed in a crash in May 2009 that Mutchler said was caused by a brake failure.
NHTSA said earlier this week it is expanding its investigation into stuck throttles in another 1.56 million Ford vehicles.
On Sunday, NHTSA said it’s opening a preliminary investigation into 360,000 2005-2006 Ford Taurus sedans over complaints of vehicles suddenly accelerating because of detached cruise control cables.
On Monday, NHTSA said it was expanding its review, in a formal request for information to Ford to include the 2001-2006 Taurus and Mercury Sable – its equivalent model in the now-defunct Mercury lineup. That means NHTSA is now looking at a total of 1.92 million vehicles.
The agency is actively investigating a potential issue with a stuck throttle resulting from cruise control cable detachment involving certain Ford vehicles,” NHTSA spokeswoman Lynda Tran said. “The agency is carefully evaluating all available data and will share any findings upon conclusion of its investigation.”
Tran said it isn’t uncommon to look at similar vehicles as part of a preliminary investigation. NHTSA’s request “is inquiring about a broader population in order to obtain a basis for comparison.”
Ford spokesman Daniel Pierce said Monday the automaker is cooperating.
“We are aware of the NHTSA investigation and, as always, we will cooperate fully with the agency,” Pierce said.
He didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment Wednesday on the latest report.
NHTSA said Sunday it is has received 14 complaints from Taurus owners that said the engine revved as high as 4,000 RPMs after shifting into park or neutral. On Monday, NHTSA told Ford in a letter that it has identified 30 complaints in 2005-2006 Taurus vehicles.
Some complaints said owners had trouble stopping the vehicles; and one owner said the vehicle had traveled partially through a red light before it stopped. Some drivers had to shift into neutral or shut off the car to stop the vehicle.
NHTSA didn’t identify any crashes or injuries related to the issue in its statement.
In a complaint filed Feb. 15, an owner from Hickory, N.C., said “while coasting uphill and approaching my left turn the (2006 Taurus) began to accelerate. I made the left turn while applying a good amount of force to the brake pedal for fear that I would hit mail boxes and homes.”
The owner of a 2005 Taurus told NHTSA in November that when stopped at a light the car started to rev “and could not hold on brakes enough to stop moving. Went through red light, around two cars as speed reached about 70 miles per hour. Both feet on brakes. Could smell them burning,” the owner wrote. “Please someone make Ford wake up about this problem before someone is killed. I wouldn’t feel right trading it in, for fear of someone else getting killed.”