After a series of complaints about seats failing to latch properly in 2004 Ford Windstars and Mercury Monterey minivans, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is upgrading its inquiry of the 63,000 vans from an investigation to an engineering analysis.
Ford acknowledged that there is a flaw with the vehicles, but said it didn’t feel there was any real safety risk. According to the complaints filed with NHTSA, seats may fail to latch properly after the vans age and are exposed to moisture, allowing for corrosion.
Further arguing against the need for a recall, the automaker said the number of complaints was small and the vehicles were considerably old. While that might be true, recalls against cars more than eight years old are common, so it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a case to be made on that front.
Claiming that the flaw doesn’t pose a serious safety hazard might be a better argument except for the obvious: it’s a huge risk. Imagine what would happen if there was a child strapped in and something heavy behind the seat during hard braking or a head-on crash.
Gruesome images aside, the fact that NHTSA is upgrading the inquiry seems to speak for itself. The trouble is, fixing a rusted latch could mean extensive body work, which would be expensive for Ford, especially given the number of vans potentially concerned.