Agency probes Ford SUV’s ‘lunging’ image

Ford Motor Co.’s Freestyle crossover SUVs are being investigated by the U.S. auto-safety regulator after 238 complaints about unintended “lunging” at low speeds when the driver’s foot isn’t on the gas pedal.

The regulator is investigating model years 2005 through 2007 after 18 crashes attributed to the defect, including one that resulted in a minor injury, the agency said on its website. A “lunge’’ can be stopped by applying the brakes, “but in some cases the vehicle has moved as much as 10 feet if the brake was not applied, lightly applied, or applied late,’’ the NHTSA said.

“We will fully cooperate with the government as they review this matter,” Susan Krusel, a spokeswoman for the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker, said in an e-mail.

Consumers have reported movement in both forward and reverse gears and described it as “sudden and unexpected and generally brief in duration,” NHTSA said.