October 4, 2002
Crown Victoria Investigation
- Background: The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened an
investigation into fuel leaks following rear impact crashes in MY 1992-2001
Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Marquis vehicles on
November 27, 2001. The investigation (Service Query 01-014) was opened
following reports from several law enforcement organizations regarding the
potential for fuel leaks and fires in Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI)
vehicles following rear impact crashes and in response to a Technical
Service Bulletin (TSB) that was issued by Ford Motor Company (Ford) on
October 22, 2001, in which it recommended two actions to reduce the
likelihood of post-crash fuel leaks resulting from what Ford described as
"extremely high-speed rear impacts."
At the time the investigation was opened, ODI was aware of reports alleging
17 post-crash fires in CVPI vehicles (14 within the scope of Ford's TSB),
which had led to 9 deaths. During the investigation, ODI identified 12
additional post-crash fires in the subject vehicles. There are 9 deaths
resulting from these additional crashes although one crash involved 3
The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor vehicle currently is the
overwhelming vehicle of choice for police duty. The vehicle is a real-wheel
drive, full-sized sedan, and police departments have typically selected
rear-wheel drive, full-sized sedans for performance, interior space, and
robustness. The only other vehicle that had been available for this type of
service in recent years was the Chevrolet Caprice; and GM stopped producing
this platform after MY 1996.
ODI is aware of only 4 fire-related rear crashes resulting in four deaths in
the over 2.6 million civilian vehicles covered by the investigation in the
ten years in which they have been on the road. Similarly, ODI is aware of
only 2 fire-related rear crashes in over 1.4 million non-police Chevrolet
Caprice vehicles. Therefore, ODI's investigation focused on the CPVI
Based on its analysis of the information obtained during its investigation,
ODI made the following findings:
The subject vehicles meet current Federal motor vehicle safety standard for
fuel system integrity (FMVSS No. 301), which requires a vehicle to withstand
a 30 mph rear collision without fuel spillage in excess of established
limits. NHTSA has proposed to amend FMVSS No. 301 to require a 50 mph rear
impact; however, Ford has conducted tests in which the vehicles' fuel system
did not leak in 50 mph rear impact tests.
Almost all of the post-crash fuel leaks occurred in very high-speed
incidents, with crash energies far in excess of those generated by FMVSS No.
There is no single factor that contributed to the post-crash fuel leaks in
the CPVI vehicles. In addition to the components identified in the Ford TSB,
leaks were also caused by a deformed frame rail, shock absorber supports,
the differential cover, and stowed items in the trunk.
There have been numerous high-energy rear crashes in CVPI vehicles with
little or no loss of fuel.
Based on an analysis of FARS data, the risk of fire per fatal rear crash in
the CPVI vehicles was comparable to that of Chevrolet Caprice police
vehicles. A study conducted by the Florida Highway Patrol reached similar
Based on these findings, ODI has closed the investigation. However, it will
continue to monitor the performance of these vehicles.
NHTSA has reviewed Ford's recent announcement that it will provide an
upgrade kit for CVPI police vehicles at no cost and has designed a new
optional trunk package for these vehicles. While NHTSA believes that these
actions can be expected to reduce the likelihood of post rear crash fires in
CVPI vehicles, they were not a factor in NHTSA's decision to close this
NHTSA will continue to monitor efforts by Ford and representatives of the
Arizona law enforcement community to examine vehicle design issues and
police practices and procedures relating to vehicle stops in an effort to
reduce the potential for future post-crash fires.
NHTSA has also invited the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
to form a joint panel to look at broader issues, including the role of
emergency vehicle lighting configurations and their effect on crashes, the
impact of after-market equipment placement on officer safety, and the
positioning of police vehicles during traffic stops.
The text of the closing report is available from NHTSA's website at: