Federal highway safety officials have opened an investigation into reports of vehicle fires involving Ford F-150 pickup tricks, following at least five incidents that may be linked to a faulty seatbelt component.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced they are reviewing an Ford F-150 seatbelt fire risk that may impact approximately 1.4 million vehicles from model year 2015 through 2018, which are equipped with either ZF TRW or Takata seat belt pretensioners.
The component is part of the seatbelt system, which locks the seatbelt in place when the system senses an impact. The pretensioners being investigated are an electrical style pretensioner, which may be prone to an electrical short that could cause a fire.
To date, the NHTSA has received at least five Vehicle Owners Questionnaires alleging Ford F-150 seatbelt fires resulting from the activation of the prentensioners during a crash. Of the five incidents, two vehicle owners reported the fires self-extinguished, whereas the other three vehicles were totally destroyed by the fire.
The investigation has been opened by the NHTSA in conjunction with Ford Motor Company and its parts distributors, to assess the scope, frequency, and safety-related consequences of the alleged defect.
According to one of the complaints received by Ford in early July, a driver in Grand Rapids, Michigan indicated a deer ran into the driver’s side of the F-150 truck and a passenger in the back seat noticed a the seatbelt pillar at the bottom of the driver’s seat catch on fire.
Another consumer reported they were impacted by another vehicle on the passenger side when the vehicle caught on fire immediately following the crash, completely engulfing the vehicle in flames. The investigating insurance company indicated to the vehicle owner that the fire was likely due to a manufacturing defect with the air bags and the electrical system.
Ford’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Weigandt commented that the automaker takes safety very seriously and they are cooperating with NHTSA officials to determine the root cause of the issue.