2002 Ford Taurus sedan. (AP File)
Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
It's similar to the issue that plagued Toyota and because the Taurus model was so popular, this investigation involves a lot of vehicles.
Government safety investigators have opened a preliminary probe into safety cables on 310,000 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sables to see if fracturing could cause runaway cars.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it received about 50 complaints alleging that throttles became stuck in model year 2000 to 2003 Taurus and Sables equipped with 3-liter V-6 Duratec engines, according to a filing. There have been no complaints of crashes or injuries.
Reports of runaway cars due to sticky throttles is the same issue that created havoc for Toyota a couple years ago. After an investigation, NHTSA said it couldn't find any evidence said it believed the problem was limited to floor mats that could jam under accelerator pedals or a flawed part that was the subject a huge recall. If a throttle sticks wide open, drivers are supposed to push the brake -- with both feet, if necessary -- to bring the car to a stop or shift in into "neutral."
In Ford's case, the issue appears to be a speed control cable assembly that can split apart over time. If it does, it can rub hard against the cable leading to the possiblity it could stick, according to NHTSA. On the basis of early tests, the government says the sticking problem happens in 26% of fractured cables.
Ford issued a statement, saying that it is working the government. "Ford is aware of NHTSA's preliminary investigation on 2000 to 2003 Taurus and Sable models and will cooperate fully with the investigation as we conduct our analysis," says spokeswoman Marcey Zweibel. "We have just begun our analysis and we have very limited information at this time."