Ford sees supplier flaw at root of 2013 Escape recall

DETROIT, July 23 Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:28am IST

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DETROIT, July 23 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co, which recalled about 11,500 Escape sport utility vehicles last week because of a fire risk, is pointing to a manufacturing flaw in fuel lines supplied by part maker TI Automotive for the problem.

Some of the fuel lines were "mechanically scored" at TI Automotive's plant in Ashley, Indiana, according to documents Ford filed Friday with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A fuel line with a cut on the surface could split open and leak, according to the documents. The problem forced Ford to take the rare step of telling owners to stop driving their 2013 model Escapes with a 1.6-liter engine.

A spokeswoman for TI Automotive did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The affected vehicles were made at Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant from Oct. 8, 2011 to July 11. TI Automotive has repaired the manufacturing flaw and is still making fuel lines for the 2013 Escape, Ford spokeswoman Marcey Zwiebel said.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker announced the recall on Thursday of last week and NHTSA posted the additional documents Friday. About 4,800 Escape SUVs were sold to customers in the United States and Canada, while the rest are on dealer lots.

Production of the Escape was not halted as a result of the recall. The Escape, which was completely overhauled for the 2013 model year, is one of two crucial launches for Ford this year, along with the redesigned 2013 Fusion mid-size sedan.

Escape models with 2.0- and 2.5-liter engines were not affected by the recall and driving recommendation. About 10 percent of the 2013 Escapes sold have 2.5-liter engines. The remaining sales are evenly split between the 1.6- and 2.0-liter engines, Ford said.

Dealers will transport customers' 2013 Escapes to the dealership for necessary repairs and provide a loaner vehicle. Ford will pay dealers up to $660 per vehicle to defray transportation, rental and other costs, according to the documents.

On June 9, "an underhood fire was observed" after a Ford employee drove an Escape from Ford's Louisville plant to its nearby Kentucky Truck Plant, according to the documents.

Ford investigated the issue and determined that it was a unique case, Zwiebel said.

On June 18, an Escape owner in Canada reported an engine fire, which Ford was examining when another employee driving from Louisville "experienced a fire" on July 11, the documents said. There have been no injuries due to the problem.

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