Dec. 7, 2012 at 10:11 AM ET
Ford Motor Co. plans to recall more than 19,000 of its new Fusion midsize sedans to replace faulty headlamps, the second service action hitting the new and well-publicized vehicle in just a week.
Last Friday, the automaker announced that it would recall about 80,000 vehicles, including nearly 16,000 Fusions, because of a potential fire risk.
The latest recall was triggered by the discovery of a manufacturing defect at a Ford supplier that could result in the vehicle’s headlamps dimming and becoming hazy over time, according to documents the automaker filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In all, 19,106 Fusion sedans are covered by the latest recall. A total of 15,833 were impacted by the previous recall which was triggered by reports of fires in both the new Fusion and the newly redesigned Ford Escape crossover. (In all, 73,320 of the CUVs will need repairs.) According to government records, coolant can leak from Fusion and Escape models equipped with Ford’s 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine. If that comes into contact with hot engine or exhaust components a fire is possible. A company spokesman said the headlamp problem was discovered during internal testing of the Fusion sedan, which was completely redesigned for the 2013 model-year and which went on sale in September. The maker says it has received no reports of accidents or injuries related to the problem – though NHTSA warned that the defect could nonetheless increase the possibility of a crash.
The Escape has been recalled four times since its launch in mid-2012, twice for fire-related issues.
Ford has been investigating additional reports of fires in Europe but says it has not found evidence of a problem requiring a recall there.
Ford officials say the speed with which they identified the latest headlamp problem underscores their commitment to deal with safety problems in a rapid manner.
But the spate of problems involving two of its best-known models -- and two of the most significant redesigns for 2013 – threaten to hammer the maker’s reputation. The news complicates Ford’s efforts to rebuild its reputation for quality and reliability after setbacks in a number of recent surveys, such as the widely quoted Consumer Reports Automotive Reliability Study and the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey.
The auto industry, as a whole, has seen an apparent increase in recalls over the last several years and industry observers believe that may be the result of the unintended acceleration scandal that snagged Toyota in late 2009 and 2010. Federal regulators became embroiled in the fiasco when it became known they had backed off on a planned recall of Toyota vehicles. Since then, analysts contend, automakers have felt pressure to recall vehicles for problems that previously might have been handled with less attention-grabbing dealer service bulletins.
While Ford has faced a series of recalls in recent months most have involved relatively modest numbers of vehicles. Some of the biggest service actions have involved Toyota and Honda, which have recalled millions of vehicles in just the last two months. Barring even bigger announcements by Ford or some other competitor, Toyota and Honda are in a dubious race to see which will recall the most vehicles in 2012. Honda led that list in 2011, Toyota the year before.