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Old 08-09-2003, 01:21   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A.:Ford recalling 1.6 million sport utes, also Crown Vics

By Dee-Ann Durbin / Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Ford Motor Co. is recalling 35,700 Crown Victoria police cars and taxis because of a wheel defect, the automaker and the federal government said Friday.

The announcement came a day after Ford said it would offer fire-suppression technology in 2005 for Crown Victoria police cars, which have been criticized because of gas tank explosions in some rear-end collisions.

Ford also said it is recalling nearly 1.6 million Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers made between 1998 and 2001 and 2001-2002 Explorer Sport and Sport Trac models for a defect in the seat backs. A smaller number of the same vehicles also are being recalled because of a problem with speed control cables.

Ford said Friday that it knew of no injuries related to the three recalls.

On 2003 Crown Victoria and Crown Victoria Police Interceptors that are equipped with steel wheels, some of the wheels may develop cracks in the rim. The cracks could ultimately lead to rapid air loss from the tire, Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday.

The recall comes at an awkward time for Ford, which has defended the safety record of the Crown Victoria despite the deaths of 14 officers since 1983, all killed when their gas tanks erupted in flames after their Crown Victorias were hit from behind.

"I think it's safe to say at this point that trusting them less is not possible," said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. "Ford is not listening to the law enforcement community."

Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley responded that the Crown Victoria has the government's highest ratings for crashworthiness.

"We can understand the concern that police officers have," she said. "Overall, the Crown Victoria is a safe vehicle."

Like the fuel tank issue, Kinley said the cracks are related to the heavy-duty use of Crown Victorias. The vehicles also have unique suspensions that could relate to the problem, Ford said. About 85 percent of all U.S. police departments use the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor.

Dealers will replace wheels that were manufactured between Aug. 18, 2001, and Sept. 22, 2002, NHTSA said. Ford also will provide extended warranty coverage for vehicles with steel wheels built between October 2002 and April 2003. Ford is recalling 29,926 vehicles in the United States, 852 in Canada and 4,902 in Mexico.

On Explorers, Mountaineers and Explorer Sport and Sport Tracs equipped with high-back seats, the bolt that attaches the seat recliner to the seat frame could fracture and the seat could fall back, increasing the risk of a driver losing control. Dealers will replace the bolt with a metal one.

On nearly 500,000 Explorers, Mountaineers, Explorer Sport and Sport Tracs with optional speed control, the speed control cables could wear out prematurely and possibly increase braking distance. Dealers will inspect the cables and replace them if necessary.
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