Ford Explorer 2011 Copyright Scott Olson, Getty Images

2011 Ford Explorers rolling off the assembly line in December 2010

NHSTA Reviewing Complaints of Ford Explorer Exhaust-Gas Leaks

Review involves Ford Motor Co.'s Explorers from model years 2011 through 2014. Federal lawsuit filed in June. Ford spokesperson said the automaker is reviewing the case.

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration said on Friday it was reviewing reports that exhaust gases, including carbon monoxide, may enter the passenger compartment of some Ford Explorers, a potential safety issue that has prompted customer complaints and a recent lawsuit.

The agency said it was aware of complaints involving Ford Motor Co.'s (IW 500/8) Explorers from model years 2011 through 2014 from owners who claim they experienced exhaust fumes or other strange odors in the cabin.

NHTSA was "reviewing all available data and will take appropriate action as warranted," it said in a statement.

In a lawsuit filed June 9 in Florida federal court, Angela Knutson, the owner of a 2013 Ford Explorer, said that a defect in hundreds of thousands of Explorers could cause "lethal quantities of carbon monoxide" to enter passenger cabins while the vehicle was being driven, putting occupants at risk.

Knutson filed the lawsuit on behalf of a proposed class of owners of Explorers from model years 2011 through 2013.

In December 2012, the lawsuit said, Ford issued a technical service bulletin to dealers acknowledging that some Explorers from model years 2011 to 2013 "may exhibit an exhaust odor in the vehicle with the auxiliary climate control system on."

Knutson said that Ford failed to warn customers or address the possibility that passengers may be exposed to deadly carbon monoxide, according to the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for Ford said the company was reviewing the case and would act promptly to address any issues if needed.

Lawyers for Knutson did not immediately return requests for comment on Friday.

(Reporting by Jessica Dye in New York and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Ted Botha and Dan Grebler)

Copyright Reuters, 2014

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