A Dispatches programme to be screened by Britain’s Channel 4 on Thursday evening (16 November) claims that it has unveiled a major safety problem in the design of the Ford Explorer SUV which may have caused the death of one driver in Britain and a number of others in the US.


The Dispatches investigators say  that despite receiving a growing number of complaints,







“Ford is still refusing to address the real cause of the problem.”


Ford is still refusing to address the real cause of the problem.


Potential problems with the cruise control first came to light in April 1998 when Bristol driver Chris Merrick, 35, lost control of his four-wheel-drive Explorer as he drove through the city.


Mr Merrick died when the speeding vehicle veered into a park and smashed into a tree.


An inquest later ruled that the most likely cause of his death was that the accelerator got caught in the carpet of the driver’s footwell.


Four weeks after the tragic crash, Ford recalled all Explorers, saying it had solved the problem by cutting L shapes in the offending carpet.


Dispatches says the incident triggered a flood of complaints from other Explorer drivers who claimed that theory was simply untrue.









“a fault with the cruise control system on their Explorer was to blame for a terrifying incident”


The programme also includes an interview with Gordon and Felicity Beck, of Warminster, Wiltshire, who are adamant that a fault with the cruise control system on their Explorer was to blame for a terrifying incident in which they only managed to stop their car as it sped out of control on a major road by pulling on the hand brake and performing a 180-degree turn.


Mrs Beck tells the programme: “The car just became a complete monster. The car was in charge of us. We had no control.”


A Ford UK spokesman declined to answer questions on the programme but, in a prepared statement, the company said it had identified “three potential issues… with Ford Explorer in the UK between 1997 and 1999 [and] all these issues were resolved through Ford’s investigation and recall procedures and any necessary rework action [was] carried out on vehicles already sold”.


Ford said the three issues were the passage of the throttle cable through the engine bulkhead insulation, fouling of the cruise control system cables and fouling of the throttle pedal by the driver’s floor mat.









“A Ford UK spokesman declined to answer questions on the programme”


The company also said that no incidences of problems with the cable routing or fouling were found in the UK and that the recall action “was taken as a precautionary measure”.


Ford did, however, receive 30 complaints during 1997 and 1998 of Explorers not slowing as expected.


“A loose or incorrectly fitted driver’s floor mat fouling the throttle pedal was identified through our investigations as a possible factor. All UK Ford Explorers were recalled in 1998 for this reason,” the statement said.