A major car manufacturer is offering a complimentary service to reduce potential for exhaust to leak into 1.3 million of its SUVs, but the automaker continues to tell News4 it hasn't found levels of carbon monoxide that exceed what people are exposed to every day.
News4 found complaints about exhaust odors in Ford Explorers date back to 2011, and Ford has been instructing its dealers on how to fix the leaks since 2012.
But James Temple of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, said when he took his car to a local dealership because he was concerned, he literally was told the whole carbon monoxide thing was fake news.
“I asked the people there about it, and they tell me that all the people put stuff out on the news just trying to get something on the news and stuff like that,” Temple said.
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“They said there's nothing wrong with it,” he added. “They hadn't heard anything about that.”
Toxicologist Albert Donnay tested Temple’s car and said he found levels of carbon monoxide that alarmed him.
Nikki Kleinsorg, of Keymar, Maryland, said a Ford dealership found leaks and fixed them but charged her $600.
“I don't think I should be responsible for something that, No. 1, isn't my fault and, No. 2, is a serious health risk for me and my family,” she said.
While dealerships will repair the leaks, News4 viewers and thousands of complaints on SaferCar.gov say dealers are not testing for levels of carbon monoxide.
News4 asked Ford how it knows the vehicles are safe if dealerships aren't testing.
"These vehicles are safe,” Ford responded. “Ford has thoroughly tested vehicles and has not found carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day."
In researching complaints to federal regulators, News4 found a lot of confusion when it comes to how Ford dealerships are handling complaints.
One Explorer owner from Washington, D.C., said the dealership had no idea what he was talking about.
A Waldorf, Maryland, Explorer owner complained that "I brought it to Ford dealership and they said it was nothing."
Ford told News4 it is doing something about the mixed messages. By the end of October, all dealers nationwide will have a complete dealer bulletin announcing a plan on how to deal with customer complaints about fumes. The program also answers questions about who is paying for the repairs.
"For our customers' peace of mind, Ford is offering a complimentary service that reduces the potential for exhaust to enter the vehicle,” the company said in a statement. “Customers can take their vehicles, regardless of mileage or warranty status, to a Ford dealer to have this service performed."
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The free service begins Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 31, 2018.
Ford did agree to refund Kleinsorg’s $600.
Ford refused to comment on how many vehicles it has tested for carbon monoxide and what levels it found.
Ford’s complete statement:
"Ford is aware that some 2011-17 Explorer owners have concerns about exhaust or carbon monoxide. These vehicles are safe. Our investigation has not found carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day. However, for our customers’ peace of mind, Ford is offering a complimentary service that reduces the potential for exhaust to enter the vehicle. Customers can take their vehicles, regardless of mileage or warranty status, to a Ford dealer to have this service performed, starting November 1, 2017 through December 31, 2018. To be clear, carbon monoxide concerns in Police Interceptor Utilities are related to unsealed holes from the installation of police equipment by third parties after the vehicle was purchased."
Reported by Susan Hogan, produced by Meredith Royster and edited by Perkins Broussard.