U.S. safety agency expands probe into Mercedes E-Class gas leaks

DETROIT, March 19 Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:04am EDT

DETROIT, March 19 (Reuters) - U.S. safety officials have upgraded an investigation into an estimated 250,000 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans for a possible leak from the fuel tank.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration upgraded its probe of model-year 2003 to 2008 E-Class cars to an engineering analysis, from a preliminary evaluation, based on 533 complaints received by regulators and Daimler AG's Mercedes.

An engineering analysis is a step in a process that could lead to a recall if regulators determine that a safety issue needs to be addressed by a manufacturer.

"We are taking this topic seriously and are cooperating with NHTSA," Mercedes said in a statement. "Neither we nor NHTSA have received any reports of fire, accidents, or injury."

The initial probe was opened in January 2012 after NHTSA received 20 consumer complaints from owners of E55 AMG cars about alleged fuel leaks or the presence of a strong gasoline odor both inside and outside the vehicle, particularly after refueling, according to NHTSA documents.

NHTSA said to date the agency and Mercedes have received 370 and 163 complaints related to the issue, respectively. After the initial probe was opened, NHTSA said complaints were also received about other E-Class models, such as E320, E350, E500, E550 and E63 cars and it decided to upgrade the investigation to further study the issue.

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