DALLAS (AP) _ The city sued Ford Motor Co. to obtain internal documentation on Crown Victoria police cars that officers' groups say are prone to erupt in flames when hit from behind at high speeds, though the automaker insists it hasn't withheld information.
``We're disappointed,'' Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said Thursday. ``We've been cooperating with them.''
The city is asking a state court to force Ford to provide information on the vehicles' fuel system integrity.
The petition is part of the city's investigation into whether the October death of a Dallas police officer resulted from a defect in the police-issued Crown Victoria's design. Officers' groups have said the vehicles are prone to burn when hit from behind at high speeds.
After two weeks of talks, the city was forced to file the lawsuit when Ford said it would take six months to provide the requested information, City Attorney Madeleine Johnson said.
The city wants information on crash testing on Crown Victorias equipped with gas tank shields. Detroit-based Ford announced in September it would pay to retrofit police-issued Crown Victorias with the shields, but the city is investigating whether such shields are effective, the petition stated.
Dallas officials also want information from Ford about ``bladders,'' or sacks that protect fuel from igniting.
While Kinley said the company had offered the city depositions on gas shield testing, she said Ford's research on bladder technology was just beginning.
``The answers that they're looking for don't even exist yet,'' Kinley said.
But Johnson said the company has information on bladder technology dating to litigation surrounding the Ford Pinto in the 1970s.
Kinley said such information, if it exists, would be out-of-date and irrelevant to today's Crown Victorias.
The company continues to maintain the Crown Victoria is one of the safest vehicles on the road, arguing that the problem is not with the car but from the way it is used.
``(Police officers) are using their vehicles as shields and these vehicles are not designed to be shields; they're designed to be cars,'' Ford spokeswoman Carolyn Brown said. ``It's a scenario that spells disaster.''
Brown said the company is working with police departments to try to train officers to use the cars more safely. She said although government standards require that the cars be tested against rear impacts at 30 mph, Ford tests its Crown Victoria at 50 mph.
The city's petition said any information obtained would be used to determine if Dallas would file a lawsuit against Ford for breach of warranty.
``This is about safety; it's not about a fishing expedition or trying to get money,'' Johnson said.
Johnson said she may ask other cities to join in the effort. The Dallas officer killed in October was among at least 12 nationwide to die in fiery Crown Victoria crashes since 1983.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation in October did not find a defect in the Crown Victoria. The agency said the rate of fires was not much greater than with Chevrolet Caprice police cars.