TORRANCE, CA – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into an issue with the steering column in model-year 2005 through 2008 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor vehicles after receiving three complaints.

So far two police agencies, Montgomery County Police Department and the City of Tucson’s Police Department, have publicly announced that they are inspecting their Ford Crown Victoria police vehicles for this issue. Montgomery County’s Division Chief of its Division of Fleet Management Services, Bill Griffiths, told Government Fleet that his organization contacted NHTSA and Ford about the issue. Neither municipality has reported any accidents or injuries associated with this issue.

The release from the City of Tucson stated that a retaining clip in the steering column could come loose, potentially causing the steering to fail. The Tucson Police Department’s Sergeant Chris Widmer, in the department’s public information office, told Government Fleet magazine that out of the 450 Crown Victoria police interceptor models in the department’s fleet, inspections found a total of 16 affected by this issue. The model-years of the vehicles affected in Tucson’s fleet range from 2006 to 2011, according to Widmer. Whether NHTSA will broaden its investigation to a wider model-year range is unknown at this point.

NHTSA described the issue in a document by stating it “received three complaints alleging a separation of the upper intermediate shaft from the steering column resulting in loss of steering control in Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI) vehicles.”

Montgomery County’s original press releases stated its Division of Fleet Management Services originally discovered the issue in July after an incident. The County also stated that a second incident occurred during the first week in September. In each incident, the County noted that the steering issue did not cause a collision or any injuries.

Montgomery County conducted a mechanical investigation of the 324 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors in its Police Department’s fleet after contacting NHTSA and Ford. Out of those 324 vehicles, 303 are part of the County’s marked police cruiser fleet. The model years affected by this issue, as identified by Montgomery County’s fleet management division, include 2004 through 2011.

After the inspection, Griffiths told Government Fleet that a total of 10 vehicles experienced what his organization deemed “failures,” where the retaining clip in the steering column became unseated, which would potentially cause the upper and lower steering column shafts to separate. Griffiths was careful to note that although Montgomery County is replacing the entire upper steering column on the 10 units mentioned previously, this is not the definitive solution, as NHTSA has not posted a recall announcement for this specific issue.

Government Fleet magazine also contacted Ford about the issue, and the company's Susan Krusel provided the following statement: “Ford is aware of NHTSA’s preliminary investigation on the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor models and we will cooperate fully with the agency as we conduct our analysis. We have just begun our investigation and have very limited information regarding the reports.”

NHTSA officially opened the investigation on Sept. 14.

Note: A number of fleet managers are discussing this story in Fleet Share, Government Fleet magazine's social network for public-sector fleet professionals, in Fleet Toolbox. You can sign up for Fleet Share for free here.

By Greg Basich

Updated 3:57 p.m. 9/27/2012