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U.S. opens safety probe into Mercedes vans used for Amazon deliveries, ambulances

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The Mercedes-Benz logo is pictured at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Aug 6 (Reuters) - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Friday it has opened a preliminary investigation into reports some 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, configured for use as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) delivery vehicles or ambulances, roll away shortly after being shifted to park.

The agency said it had 11 reports of the issue after vehicles were shifted to park using the Auto-P function. NHTSA said it had reports of eight crashes and one injury related to the Mercedes-Benz (DAIGn.DE) Sprinter 2500/3500/4500 vans. The agency did not disclose the total number of vehicles under investigation.

Mercedes-Benz Cars & Vans said in an email the company "has been in close communication with NHTSA about its concerns and will continue to fully cooperate with the agency."

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Amazon did not immediately comment.

The agency reports do not specify how many of the eight crash reports were in vans used as Amazon delivery vehicles.

In a March 16 complaint, a driver in Pittsburgh said the vehicle was turned off and in park and "it rolled backwards down a hill on top of someone's car and could have killed someone ... This is my second Amazon-branded Mercedes Sprinter accident on different vehicles, with the same exact faulty brake operating system."

A complaint in February from Manchester, Connecticut, said the issue is with 2019 Sprinter vans rolling out of park after 10 minutes of idling. The complaint said it believes the issue is "potentially an extremely dangerous situation."

A preliminary investigation is the first step before NHTSA decides whether to upgrade its review to an engineering evaluation. NHTSA said "a rollaway vehicle with no operator behind the steering wheel could potentially strike pedestrians, moving or parked vehicles or buildings resulting in injury, fatality and/or property damage."

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Reporting by David Shepardson; additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Steve Orlofsky

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