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27 November 2000
Ford Issues Fifth Escape Recall

Yesterday Ford Motor Co. announced the fifth recall since the summer on the new Escape SUV and its corporate twin, the Mazda Tribute. First there were leaky fuel lines, then incorrect wheel hubs. It seems the Ford people put four-wheel-drive hubs on the rear of two-wheel-drive vehicles. Some 4x2 sport utility vehicles not equipped with an antilock brake system (ABS) may have inadvertently been built with 4x4 rear hubs instead of 4x2 hubs. If the incorrect hubs are installed, the rear wheels can loosen, or in some cases, separate from the vehicle. This condition could cause loss of control of the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.

The Proposed Fix:
Dealers will inspect the rear hubs and, if necessary, replace them Since the wrong hub could affect steering control. That was followed by problems with the cruise control. It could make the throttle stick. And then there was the problem with the steering wheel. It had the potential to come off in your hands.

In addition, Mazda had a problem all its own. It had to recall the Tribute handbook to change the instructions on anchoring child-restraint systems. Yesterday's recall involved the windshield wipers, which Ford said might be damaged or defective.

Since its introduction late this summer, Ford has bragged about the safety of the Escape, a vehicle that offers just about every safety device currently available. So it's no surprise that both Ford and Mazda were a bit defensive yesterday about the latest recall on vehicles that have only been in production since midsummer.

It's important to note that in the initial four recalls very few units were actually in customer hands, said Ford spokesman Michael Vaughn. The Escape is a totally new vehicle, and sometimes when you launch a totally new product there are minor production glitches.''

The 27 NOV 2000 recall involved 51,022 Escapes and 24,000 Tributes. Of those, 27,516 Escapes and 12,500 Tributes had already been sold. But coming off a summer that saw Ford become enmeshed in the recall of millions of Firestone tires used as original equipment on its Explorer models, the string of recalls on one of the company's newest products is clearly something Ford doesn't relish.

This spring, the company announced that it would pay for head gaskets that failed on nearly 1 million 3.8-liter V-6 engines built during the early half of the 1990s. Then, this summer, the company was forced to recall 350,000 of its new Focus compact cars for a safety fix.

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