[Editor's note: This story has been updated.]
Ford Motor Company has issued recall of nearly 485,000 Escape and Maverick crossover vehicles due to a gas pedal problem that has already led to several accidents and one death. Separately, Mazda is recalling some 217,500 Tributes for the same problem.
The Ford Escape recall involves Ford Escapes and Mavericks with 2001 through 2004 (Escapes are sold as “Mavericks” in Europe), with three-cylinder V6 engines and cruise control. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating the small SUVs last week after receiving 68 complaints from Escape owners, including reports of 13 crashes, nine injuries, and one fatality in Arizona. The NHTSA was also investigating the gas pedals on Mazda Tributes – small SUVs identical to Escapes and manufactured for Mazda by Ford.
The problem is with the cruise control cables, which, when moved from their original positions, can swing and snag on the plastic engine cover, potentially causing the throttle to stick when it is fully or partially pressed down.
One way to reduce the hazard is avoid fully or almost-fully depressing the accelerator pedal, a Mazda spokesman advises in an e-mail. "Should drivers experience what they believe is a stuck throttle in this or any other vehicle, they should firmly and steadily apply the brakes without pumping the brake pedal, shift to neutral, steer the vehicle to a safe location, and shut the engine off after the vehicle is safely stopped."
Ford is still distributing repair parts to dealerships. In the interim, affected owners can take their cars to any US Ford or Lincoln dealer to get the cruise control detached for no charge, thereby eliminating the sticking problem.
“Parts for the permanent repair are not currently available,” Ford wrote in a notice to customers. “In the meantime, we have authorized your dealer to perform an interim repair, which will disable the speed control system on your vehicle to eliminate the possibility of a stuck throttle when the accelerator is fully or almost-fully depressed. This temporary repair will allow you to continue driving your vehicle until parts for the permanent repair are available.”
This recall is the third in two weeks for the Ford Escape – the top-selling SUV in the country in June. Last week, Ford recalled 11,500 2013 models due to cracked fuel lines, which could lead to fires. A few days earlier, 10,000 Escapes were recalled for faulty carpeting that could interfere with breaking.
This latest recall, however, is by far the largest. It’s also the latest in a long line of problems for the 2004 model Escape, which was recalled twice in 2004 and again in 2007.
Some 421,000 of the affected vehicles were sold in the United States, with the rest mostly sold in Canada, Europe, Mexico, and Asia. The cars were manufactured at Ford’s Kansas City or Ohio manufacturing plants between Oct. 22, 1999, and Jan. 23, 2004.
The recall of Mazda Tributes involves slightly different model years: 2001 through 2006, as well as some 2008 vehicles.