NLPC Associate Fellow Mark Modica was interviewed on the Willis Report on May 28, 2013. Here’s a transcript:
Gerri Willis: Federal government finally, finally revving up an investigation into the Ford F150 pickup trucks with Eco-Boost engines. Now if you watch this show you would have known this was coming because earlier this month we reported consumer complaints about Eco-Boost engines. They shake or lose power during acceleration. That is a complaint. But little has been done about it from Ford or the federal government, for that matter. With more on this Mark Modica associate fellow at the National Legal and Policy Center. Mark, welcome to the show. You know, we’ve talking about this for a long time. Why is the federal government been so slow to act?
Mark Modica: Hi, Gerri. Well, I don’t know. There have been about a hundred complaints. As you said, the vehicles tend to shudder and lack acceleration. It seems a lot of the problems have been coming in humid or rainy weather from what I am understanding but it has been a problem, looking at the F-150, but it would expand, I’m sure, to other Fords that use that Eco-Boost engine.
Gerri Willis: So we got the Eco-Boost engine in the Ford Flex, and the Lincoln sedan. It’s all over the place. This is a very popular engine. Is there any chance we could see a recall here, do you think.
Mark Modica: I would expect to see a recall, but Gerri, what we really have is a problem that is emanating from an EPA that is just putting such strict requirements on fuel standards that manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up. The technologies are not ready to meet the rising requirements. So it seems like these cars are hitting the roads before they have been properly tested for safety and before they’re actually ready.
Gerri Willis: Well, I thought it was a great insight of yours. You know, these in stringent standards from the EPA coming into play, and the companies can’t keep up, so they put something out there not really knowing if it’s going to work OR not. Now people were telling me, hey, Gerri, this isn’t a problem because it is only a problem in acceleration, but what if I am, I don’t know, getting on the expressway and here goes my Eco-Boost engine, and it slows down and stops.
Mark Modica: It is, it is a definite safety concern. And, you know, we have seen various types of concerns that NHTSA is a little slow on, particularly with the most favored electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries. It looks like we have the same pattern there where these things just hit the road before they were properly tested. So again, just a pattern of the EPA requiring more and more, and it is really going to come back to cost consumers because all vehicles are going to go up in price as these manufacturers have to come up with technologies to meet these rapidly rising cafe standards.
Gerri Willis: Mark, listen to this exchange I had last week about this very topic.
Gerri Willis: You told our producer this is no safety risk. How so?
Unidentified Spokesperson: Well, it depends on what goes on. If the engine completely shut down the highway, that is a safety risk. Some of these things, what the complaints are about, the stuttering, it’s not getting a really, a good driving experience or something like that. That’s a different animal. But there’s a difference between a real safety issue or a car leaving you completely stranded or something like that, it’s a reliability issue.
Gerri Willis: Well, I got to tell you, if it stopped for me while I am accelerating onto a highway I would consider it a safety issue. There maybe somebody behind me.
Gerri Willis: So Mark, do you think we’re going to see more investigations into this kind of thing. You’re saying that this lack of interest, ability to abide by safety standards is happening in number of categories? Will we see more probes?
Mark Modica: Well, let’s hope that they do their job there. I mean there seems to have been some conflicts at NHTSA in the past with the didn’t want to touch anything involving any type of lithium-ion fires. You know, we’ve seen that with Fisker and Volt which seems like they have been cleared up, but still there should be no hesitancy to quickly act on any type of safety concerns, and you are right, this was obviously a safety concern which I’m sure Ford will work on but NHTSA needs to be right on this and just because these engines are deemed to be energy-efficient and green…
Gerri Willis: That is no reason to let them go, that is for sure.
Mark Modica…No reason that they shouldn’t – we need to make sure that drivers are safe in their vehicles out there.
Gerri Willis: I agree. Thank you so much.
Mark Modica: Thanks, Gerri.
Gerri Willis: Well, later in the show…