REFILE-UPDATE 2-Ford recalls 1.6-liter Ford Escape, tells owners to stop driving

Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:28am IST

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* Rare for automaker to warn drivers to stop driving
vehicles immediately
    * Under-the-hood fire could happen
    * Escape No. 1 SUV in U.S. market in 2011

    By Bernie Woodall
    July 19 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co told owners of the
best-selling SUV in the United States on Thursday to stop
driving 2013 model Ford Escape with 1.6-liter engines
immediately due to the risk of an engine fire.
    Ford recalled about 11,500 new 2013 model Ford Escape SUVs
with 1.6-liter engines, of which about 4,800 were sold to
customers in the U.S. and Canadian markets, the company said.
Most of the rest are on dealer lots.
    Only Ford Escape with 1.6-liter engines sold in the U.S. and
Canadian markets are affected by the recall and fire risk, Ford
said.
    It is extremely rare for an automaker to warn drivers to
stop driving their vehicles immediately.
    Ford is telling owners to contact their local Ford dealers
immediately so that loaner vehicles can be delivered and their
Escapes picked up to be taken to the dealerships for repair.
    Ford said an under-the-hood fire could happen due to an
engine compartment fuel line that could split and leak fuel.
    Marcey Zwiebel, Ford spokeswoman, said that if consumers
quickly contact their dealers, replacement of the fuel line in
all of the affected Escapes can be repaired within two weeks.
    "It's a liability thing on their part," said Aaron Bragman
of IHS Global Insight. "They don't want people driving it if its
happened when they were just shuttling them at the plant."
    Bragman referred to the fact that of the three incidents of
under-the-hood fires reported by Ford, two occurred at the
production plant as they were being shuttled from assembly line
to a parking lot to await shipment.
    Zwiebel said that Ford is hopeful that consumers will see
this as an issue that the automaker fixed quickly and alerted
them in a timely fashion.
    "This is not a routine action that we are taking but we do
believe it is appropriate in these circumstances," said Zwiebel.
    Zwiebel said there have been no injuries reported, and that
one of the fires was reported in an Escape in consumer hands,
near Toronto.
    Of the 11,500 recalled Escapes, 9,300 are in the United
States and the remainder in Canada, Zwiebel said.
    It was the second recall for the 2013 Ford Escape this
month. Earlier, Ford recalled 8,266 Escape due to improper
positioning of carpet that may reduce clearance for the brake
pedal. 
    In 2011, the Escape, a small SUV, was the best-selling
sports utility vehicle in the U.S. market when 254,300 were
sold. But none of those are affected by the fuel line issue.
    Also not affected by the fire risk recall and stop driving
recommendation are 2013 model Escapes with 2.0- and 2.5-liter
engines.
    Ford said that about 10 percent of the new model Ford
Escapes sold have 2.5-liter engines and the rest are about
evenly split between the 1.6- and 2.0-liter engines.
    The redesigned Escape began to sell throughout North America
only last month. Consumers began buying them soon after they
began production at the Louisville, Kentucky assembly plant that
was revamped last year to make the new Escape.
    Michelle Krebs, analyst with Edmunds.com, said the Escape is
an important vehicle for Ford.
    "Since the Escape is one of Ford's highest volume models, it
is critically important that it addresses the problem quickly
and properly, which is what it appears to be is doing," said
analyst Michelle Krebs with Edmunds.com.
    The Escape has lost the title as best-selling small SUV,
also known as crossovers, in the first half of this year to the
Honda Motor Co CR-V, which has seen sales rise 32
percent compared to the 4-percent sales gain for Escape.
    The 2012 CR-V was also recalled on Thursday, for door lock
issues. [ID: nL2E8IJ2WY]
    Dealers were also told to stop selling 2013 Ford Escape SUVs
with 1.6-liter engines until they are repaired.
    "We have identified an issue and are taking quick actions in
the best interest of our customers," said Ray Nevi, assistant
director, Ford Automotive Safety Office.
    "Our intensive investigation and testing has identified the
area of concern and we are moving as quickly as possible to
repair vehicles for our customers. In the meantime, it is
extremely important that affected customers not ignore this
recall and immediately contact their dealer."
    The Escape with the 1.6-liter engine involved in the recall
and with the problem were made through July 11, Ford said.
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