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Crown Victoria cop cars probed over defect

DETROIT -- Government safety regulators are investigating Ford's Crown Victoria police cars due to complaints about defective steering columns.

The probe affects about 195,000 cars from the 2005 through 2008 model years.

The government has received three complaints that part of the steering column can separate and cause loss of steering control. No crashes or injuries were reported, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents posted Saturday on its website.

Investigators will determine if the cars have a safety defect and whether a recall is needed. So far the vehicles haven't been recalled.

Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said the company is aware of the investigation and is cooperating. The investigation affects only police versions of the Crown Victoria, she said.

The Crown Victoria had been the police car of choice in the United States for 15 years before Ford Motor Co. stopped making it at the end of 2011. The Dearborn, Mich., company controlled 70 percent of the police car market and averaged sales of 50,000 per year. The company stopped production of the Crown Victoria late last year at its St. Thomas assembly plant near London, Ontario.

NHTSA said in the documents that two of the complaints involved police cars and one affected a local government vehicle.

In all three cases, the steering column separations happened at low speeds. One complaint said steering effort increased just before the separation.

The government also has received 10 complaints that inspections found steering columns that were about to separate.

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