-- For the second time the 2012 Ford Focus tops an auto safety watch list amid complaints and reports of injury surrounding the vehicle’s steering.
The Vehicle Watch List, released by the non-profit auto safety group The Safety Institute, is a quarterly-compiled early warning list of the top 15 vehicle trends that safety experts say automakers and government should be paying attention to. The list is compiled using publicly available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and includes consumer complaints as well as reports of injuries and deaths.
The Safety Institute states it is not a list of defects, “but rather these are areas that potentially need more investigation and to prioritize limited resources.”
The inaugural list, released in June, put the 2012 Ford Focus at the top spot, based on dozens of reported injuries in which drivers cited problems with the car’s steering.
The second list, which takes into account new data, indicates NHTSA has continued to receive complaints on the 2012 Focus, including reports that the electronic power steering randomly shuts down.
“Power steering sporadically comes in and out – usually when the car is just started and we attempt to back out – the steering has no power. If this happens while driving at a higher speed – this could be bad,” wrote a consumer to NHTSA just last week.
Another complaint included with the Safety Institute report from mid-June said the steering wheel locked when the driver had just started a drive.
“Thank goodness I was not in the middle of driving when this occurred,” the driver said. “This should really be investigated in order to avoid a fatal accident from happening.”
“It’s trending again at the top, it certainly needs to be investigated and this is something that should be of great interest to NHTSA,” said Sean Kane, president of the board of directors of The Safety Institute, who in a different role also consults with lawyers who sue automakers.
There are no recalls or investigations into steering issues on the 2012 Ford Focus, and a spokesperson for Ford had no comment on the vehicle placing top on the Vehicle Watch List for a second time.
Upon the list’s first release in June, a spokesperson for Ford told ABC News it did not “recognize” the methodology for the safety watch list.
“We are confident in our current methods for quickly identifying and addressing potential vehicle issues,” the spokesperson added. “When the data indicates a safety recall is needed, we move quickly on behalf of our customers. The spokesperson said then that the company takes the safety of its customers “very seriously.”
A NHTSA spokesperson didn’t immediately respond but told ABC News upon release of the initial list in June that the agency has a “good track record” in identifying safety defects and issuing recalls.