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Ford VN rebuffs malfunction in minivans   2010-03-19 - VietNamNet/SGT

Ford Vietnam said at a press conference in Hanoi on Wednesday that 2007-model Ford Transit minivans were not malfunctioning, after customer Thien Truong Passenger Transit Co. complained about unintended acceleration.

Michael Pease, Ford Vietnam’s general director, said: “There is no malfunction of the feature in Ford Transit 2007, and there was absolutely no relation of this issue to cases of unintended acceleration from other manufacturers. This is a completely separate issue.”

Ford Vietnam still has not had the opportunity to check customers’ vehicles. (Photo: VNN)

The company also provided reporters with a briefing sheet that gives some background and technical data on the vehicle’s features.

“We have tried to put it in easy to understand wording – though a more detailed technical explanation is also available,” Pease said.

He added the model had a ‘Steady State Drive Feature’ that enables drivers to drive at a constantly low speed in all gears with no accelerator pedal input required.

This speed is dependent on the target idle speed and the selected gear, and is designed to provide the best trade-off between vehicle NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), for which higher rpm (revolutions per minute) speed is desirable, and vehicle drivability at slow speeds, for which lower rpm speed is wanted.

In first gear this provides a ‘steady state’ speed of about 8 km/h in first gear and progressively higher speeds to 40 km/h in fifth gear.

To achieve these target speeds the idle speed controller will shortly over-compensate with a higher rpm and vehicle speed until the steady state condition is ready within a few seconds, Pease said.

“Our engineers have determined that these speeds are the optimal balance for vehicles under normal operating conditions,” he said.

Specifications and calibration of the system is maintained through mapping of the engine control module.

“It is our recommendation to customers that they always service their vehicles at Ford Authorized Service outlets to ensure they are using genuine Ford parts, and where we have the trained technicians and equipment to maintain their vehicles correctly,” he added.

Ford Vietnam still has not had the opportunity to check customers’ vehicles. However, Pease said that while they believed that the feature was operating as intended, they could not promise that all vehicles were within specification.

He invited customers to allow his company to check their vehicles to ensure correct specification and calibration. “We understand customers may not have always used a Ford Authorised Service Centre to maintain and service their vehicles and so we cannot be sure in this case that all vehicles are correctly calibrated,” he said.

“We would like to repeat that based on the description we have been given the feature is working correctly and is not malfunctioning,” Pease added.

However, based on feedback from most of the models’ 800 owners, the feature is a positive benefit and the company had not had any other reported cases of it malfunctioning.

Ford Vietnam Ltd representatives met on Monday in Hanoi with the Vietnamese transportation firm Thien Truong Passenger Transit Co. to address complaints of sudden acceleration in the minivans. Thien Truong filed complaints detailing repeated instances where the vehicles abruptly accelerated or the engines revved without driver input.

The complaints, similar to problems that caused recalls of Toyota sedans, prompted extensive coverage in the Vietnamese media.

Thien Truong said that with the minivan in first gear, the involuntary acceleration would take the engine up to 1,000 rpm. In an article on Monday in Tien Phong newspaper, a Ford technician was quoted as saying the increase in rpm was probably designed to keep the engine from stalling and should not cause acceleration. Since the complaints were reported, other Ford Transit owners have come forward with similar concerns.

Bui Danh Lien, chairman of the Hanoi Transportation Association, said he had sent documents to the national Traffic Safety Committee and Traffic Police, asking them to set up checkpoints around the country to inspect 2007 Ford Transits for safety.

Lien said he had advised the agencies to investigate Ford’s civil or criminal liability in case of any accidents with the minivans and raised the issue of liability of foreign investors for damages.

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