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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation of 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan vehicles regarding allegations of possible stuck accelerator pedals caused by optional "All Weather" floor mats.

Drivers of those models should not stack any unsecured floor mats over the carpeted mat that comes standard on the vehicle, NHTSA implored.

Numerous reports indicate that approximately 249,300 vehicles are being investigated. While three complaints of this occurrence in the 2010 Fusion have been filed, no crashes, injuries or deaths have been reported to NHTSA.

"Any Ford 'All Weather' optional floor mat should be placed in the driver's side foot well only after first unfastening and removing the standard, carpeted floor mat," the NHTSA said. "This is the only way to ensure that the 'All Weather' optional floor mat is physically secured to the floor. The Ford original equipment floor mats have special attachment opening points to safely secure them to the floor of the driver's side foot well."

Officials continued: "The safety agency is opening a formal investigation to examine allegations of the pedals becoming trapped in the depressed position after the driver releases the pedal to decelerate. NHTSA has verified three consumer complaints concerning the MY 2010 Fusion stating that Ford's optional rubber 'All Weather' mat, when laid on top of the secured, standard carpeted floor mat in the driver's side foot well, can slip forward and trap the accelerator pedal.

"This causes the accelerator pedal to remain in the depressed position without driver input. This is most likely to occur after the driver presses the accelerator pedal substantially such as when merging or passing in traffic," they added.

In addition to making sure they do not put rubber mats on top of the carpeted ones, drivers should also make sure that any kind of floor mats below the pedals — no matter if they are carpeted or all-weather — have been installed correctly and holstered by floorboard retention hooks.

"Depending on vehicle and floor mat design, it is possible for unsecured floor mats to interfere with accelerator or brake pedals in a wide range of vehicles," officials noted. "Therefore, NHTSA reminds all drivers of all makes and models to check the driver-side floor mats for secure installation and to follow all manufacturer instructions for installing the mats." 

Ford Responds 

In response to the news, Said Deep, of Ford product communications, noted: "We do not recommend stacking floor mats in any vehicle from any automaker. In fact, Ford's all-weather floor mats have these instructions printed on the top of every driver's mat. 

"The packaging for these mats also cautions that they should not be stacked on other mats. In addition, all Ford vehicles and mats have an attachment on the driver side to secure them to the floor properly," Deep continued. "We are not aware of any customer complaints or any accidents related to 2010 Fusions and Milans with properly installed floor mats." 

Deep added that the automaker will cooperate with authorities as NHTSA investigates this issue.

KBB Analyst Reacts to News

Offering his take on NHTSA's move to investigate the Fusion and Milan, James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's Kbb.com, acknowledged that this decision is "newsworthy" and that the regulatory agency needs to "raise (its) game in the name of public safety," following the heat NHTSA took in the midst of Toyota's challenges. 

"However, it strikes us as somewhat self-serving and ultimately unfair for NHTSA to now put Ford in this spotlight, as the technical issue at play ties to the driver's use of an accessory floor mat not issued as standard equipment in these cars," Bell commented.

"If Ford were to deny or ignore the fact that stacking two floor mats in the same driver's foot well could cause the throttle to stick open, then NHTSA and the general public would have every reason for outcry," he continued. "But in truth, Ford has acknowledged, from media statements to postings on its Facebook page, that concurrently using all-weather and standard floor mats is incorrect, and additionally noted that the accessory floor mats come with just such a warning."

Essentially, he added, it's about determining where the responsibilities of the automaker and vehicle owner diverge.

"At the core of this issue is the fine line between manufacturer and driver responsibility," Bell shared. "As far as we can see, Ford addressed its part when it affixed the warning sticker. Now, it is up to the driver to respect the warning."