Ford Explorer owners continue to report exhaust smell in cabin

A recent media report identified 450 complaints in the NHTSA database, a three-fold increase over the 150 complaints that prompted an ongoing inquiry.

The Ford Explorer has received renewed attention for complaints of apparent exhaust fumes inside the cabin.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first began investigating the claims in 2014. Ford drafted a pair of service bulletins to address the issue, one focused on climate-control management and another for supplemental sealing, but the agency launched a second inquiry in July 2016 as the number of complaints climbed to more than 150.

A CBS investigative report now claims to have identified around 450 complaints, including similar reports from 2016 and 2017 models that were not included in the initial investigations.

One owner claimed to smell "nauseating gas" whenever the SUV accelerates for a few seconds with the engine over 3,400rpm. The NHTSA complaints frequently claim the problem is worst when climbing grades or merging onto highways when the AC system is set to recirculation mode.

CBS uncovered a 2015 deposition in which a Ford representative allegedly blamed the concerning behavior on an unresolved "design issue," suggesting the service bulletins have not proven completely effective in some cases.

"In rare circumstances, there have been instances where customers detected an exhaust odor in Explorers," the company said in a statement, arguing that it poses no safety risk.

CBS identified several class-action lawsuits related to the complaints, including a suit filed by a Newport Beach police officer who passed out behind the wheel of his 2014 Explorer patrol vehicle and crashed into a tree.

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