NHTSA probes 400,000 Ford F-150 pickups for reduced engine power

DETROIT (Reuters) - Safety regulators have opened an investigation into reports of sharp reductions in engine power in an estimated 400,000 of Ford Motor Co’s 2001 to 2013 model-year F-150 pickup trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it opened a preliminary evaluation to assess whether the large pickup trucks have a safety related defect after receiving 95 reports alleging incidents of reduced engine power during hard accelerations at highway speeds, such as merging or passing maneuvers, in trucks with 3.5-liter gas turbocharged direct injection engines.

Many of the complaints allege safety concerns associated with passing vehicles, but NHTSA said no crashes have been reported to date. A preliminary investigation is the first step in a process that could lead to a recall if regulators determine a safety issue needs to be addressed.

A Ford spokeswoman said the U.S. automaker is cooperating with NHTSA officials in the probe.

The F-150 is the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. market.

NHTSA said about one-third of the reports it received indicate the incidents occurred while driving in humid or rainy conditions.

Ford has issued three technical service bulletins related to intermittent stumble/misfire on acceleration from highway cruise in humid or damp conditions in some model-year 2011 and 2012 F-150 trucks equipped with 3.5-liter gas turbocharged direct injection engines, according to NHTSA.

Reporting by Ben Klayman; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid