DETROIT (Reuters) – U.S. safety regulators said they have expanded to 2.7 million vehicles an investigation into the possibility that straps holding fuel tanks can rust and break on Ford Motor Co F-150 pickup trucks from the 1997-2001 model years.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said over the weekend that two fires have resulted from the issue in which one or both of the steel straps that hold the F-150 fuel tank in place rust and break.
An investigation is short of a recall but many investigations lead to an automaker recalling vehicles for safety issues.
The F-150 is the primary model in the Ford F-series pickup truck lineup which are the best-selling vehicles in North America.
“We are working with the government as they review the matter,” said Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood.
Ford reported a complaint in which a vehicle was destroyed by fire due to a leaking fuel tank, and safety regulators said they had received one complaint of a fire that went out before it caused major damage.
There were 306 consumer complaints, 175 filed with the NHTSA and 156 with Ford. Some consumers filed with both the automaker and the safety regulator, the NHTSA said.
“Among the incidents reported to NHTSA or Ford, 243 involved the fuel tank dropping below the vehicle and/or dragging on the ground, 95 involved fuel leakage, and nine included reports of sparks from the tank being dragged on the road,” the NHTSA filing said.
The probe was opened last September when an estimated 1.4 million F-150 pickup trucks were suspected of possibly having the problem. The investigation was opened after 32 consumer complaints had been received by last September.
Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Dave Zimmerman
Marchionne has said Chrysler may sell shares to the public later this year or next year if the conditions are right.
“Fiat has the liquidity to buy more Chrysler if they should want to,” Erich Hauser, a Credit Suisse Group AG analyst, said in an e-mail about the options to buy more than 51 percent. “The issue is whether it would be better to spend that money on its own autos business or on Chrysler’s autos business.”
Increasing Fiat’s Chrysler stake would boost the Italian automaker’s value by giving it more profit from a Chrysler rebound, Virag said.
Fiat also holds an option to acquire 40 percent of the original stake held by United Auto Workers union retiree health- care trust, Chrysler said.
The option is exercisable from July 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2016, and in amounts of as much as 8 percent in any six-month period, according to the filing.
General Motors Co., 33 percent owned by the Treasury, should consider using its excess cash for a stock repurchase from the U.S. government because of the low valuation of the shares, Himanshu Patel, an analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a research note May 6.
After selling Detroit-based GM’s shares for $33 in an initial public offering in November, the U.S. would need to sell its remaining equity for about $53 a share to break even on its investment.
GM fell 27 cents to $31.64 at 12:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have dropped 4.1 percent since the IPO.