Open And Shut Minivan Problem?

mercury villager. minivan. mini-van. AP

Like many busy mothers, Veronica Pena spends a lot of time in her minivan hauling the kids around, but she is concerned this convenient way to keep up with life may instead be a death trap.

The power door locks on her 1993 Mercury Villager regularly lock up on their own.

Recently, reports CBS News Correspondent Maureen Maher, Pena jumped out her Villager to rearrange an item obstructing her view out the back window with the engine running. The doors locked, trapping her two little girls inside. Pena panicked.

"Who am I going to call, nobody's at home, my husband's way on the other side of town."

Mercury's parent company, Ford Motor Co., tells CBS News "…the issue described is not common…" and that "…dealers know how to…repair the vehicles…".

But Pena has already had the locks fixed once.

CBS News has learned dozens of drivers have complained the door locks on 1993 to 1999 Mercury Villagers are "…demon possessed", a "…nightmare…", claiming the lock "…fights back when trying to open manually...", some passengers have been "…trapped in the vehicle… in 100 degree temperatures…".

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated, but concluded the "…windows can be opened if the door locks stick…allow(ing) an occupant to escape…"

That's assuming the passenger is capable of opening the window. Most mini-vans are bought by families with small children who legally must be strapped into a car seat.

Ken Hevron, who owns a Nissan Quest, asks "What's it going to take, someone to die from not being able to get out of their car?" He has experienced the same problem.

"If there were an emergency where you needed to get out of the car... it could be a disaster," said Hevron.

Like Ford, Nissan says only a "small number of quest owners have experienced" a problem with the locks.

Clarence Ditlow from the Center For Car Safety says Ford and Nissan are missing the point.

"They're waiting for that first child or that first person to die from this power door lock before they do what they should have done years ago — hich is order a safety recall."

But that costs money and Ford is already feeling multi-million dollar losses from the Firestone tire fiasco and faulty ignition lawsuits.

"I think they're a major company trying to save their tushes," said Pena.

Ford has offered to fix Veronica Pena's van for free and Nissan is only willing to split the cost with Ken Hevron. Both agree, no price is too high to protect a family.



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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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