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Ford downplays engine-fire recall

Published: December 11, 2012 | 8:11 am
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Ford Motor Co., beset by recalls of two of its best-selling models, said a repair to its 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine on the Escape sport-utility vehicle and Fusion sedan won’t have a negative impact on its bottom line.

“It will have no material impact,” Raj Nair, the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker’s product development chief, said Monday. Ford also said Monday it found a solution to an overheating issue that could cause engine fires on 2013 Escape and Fusion models equipped with the 1.6-litre engine, featuring Ford’s fuel-saving EcoBoost technology. On Nov. 30, the automaker recalled 73,320 Escape models and about 19,000 Fusions equipped with the engine. The problem resulted in 13 engine fires, Ford has said.

Ford recalled the Fusion a second time last week to replace headlights that could become defective. The Escape has been the subject of four recalls. Nair said repeated recalls can have an impact on customer satisfaction.

“It’s obviously not a positive impact,” Nair said. “But we’re committed that if we see issues we’re going to react to them. That’s our responsibility.”

Dealers next week will begin installing software updates in the cooling system of the 1.6-litre engine on SE and SEL models of the 2013 Escape and 2013 Fusion, Ford said. About 17,000 owners who have already brought in their cars for repair have been given free loaner cars, said Said Deep, a Ford spokesman.

The Fusion, Ford’s second best-selling car, has seen U.S. sales fall two per cent this year to 221,980. Sales for the Escape, Ford’s top-selling SUV, have risen 5.3 per cent through November this year to 240,877, according to researcher Auto-data Corp.

Ford hasn’t found similar problems in other EcoBoost engines, Nair said. The 1.6-litre engine in the U.S. versions of the Escape and Fusion has electronic and mechanical controls governing the cooling system that could get “out of sync” when the engine overheats, potentially leading to a fire, Nair said.

“We don’t see this issue in our other EcoBoost engines and we don’t see it in the 1.6 EcoBoost in Europe because of its cooling-system differences.”

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