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Mr. Embargo
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By Bill Koenig

Dearborn, Michigan, July 8 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. said it will finish extra inspections of the first 2003 Expedition and Navigator sport-utilities this week as the automaker tries to avoid quality problems that have hurt some of its vehicles.

The world's second-largest automaker began building the two redesigned models in April and for the first month held the vehicles for the extra inspections before sending them to dealers, spokeswoman Della DiPietro said. She declined to say what specific problems were found or how many vehicles were involved. Ford began selling the 2003 models in May.

BlueOvalNews, a Web site that tracks problems and other issues at Ford, said supplier Dana Corp. is repairing ``thousands of units'' because of welding defects in Expedition and Navigator frames. Dana isn't aware of any problems with the frames, said Gary Corrigan, a spokesman for the Toledo, Ohio-based supplier.

Ford struggled with early recalls of the redesigned 2002 Explorer sport-utility and of the new Escape sport-utility in 2000, and with delays last year on the new Thunderbird car. The automaker blamed quality problems in part for declining sales and a $5.45 billion loss last year. Ford this year improved in a J.D. Power & Associates survey of buyer complaints in the first 90 days of ownership to fifth, from seventh in 2001.

The additional inspections of the Expeditions and Navigators ``fixed any problems'' and prevented any vehicles with defects from getting to the Dearborn, Michigan-based company's dealers or customers, DiPietro said.

Ford shares fell 53 cents to $15.16 in midday trading. Dana declined 45 cents to $18.05.

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