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Not again! Ford, Volvo announce new recalls

Are automakers ordering more recalls this year? While it will likely be the end of 2012 before that question can be answered it certainly seems like more than a few days don’t go by without another headline about some safety problem or another leading to a new callback – or two, as is the case on Monday.

The latest recalls come from Ford Motor Co., which is pulling the carpet out from underneath its new Escape crossover, so to speak, and from Volvo, whose S80 sedan appears to be slipping gears.

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The Ford recall is likely to make the most headlines as it impacts the all-new 2013 Escape, a hot-selling version of the makers long-running sports utility vehicle.

Escape models will have to be brought to dealers, Ford told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, because carpet padding on the left side of the center console could slide out of place and make it difficult to operate both the brake and gas pedal.

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While this does not appear to have the potential to jam the throttle open, as has been the problem with some Toyota products, it can nonetheless extend the vehicle’s braking distance, Ford warned.

(Earlier this month, Toyota announced it would recall nearly 150,000 late-model Lexus RX models due to so-called “carpet entrapment.” That problem was blamed for an extensive earlier recall following the death of a California Highway Patrol officer who was killed, along with three other family members, when the throttle of a Lexus he was driving was jammed by loose floor mats.

(Click Here for more on the latest Lexus recall.)

A total of 8,266 2013-model Ford Escapes impacted by the new recall were sold in the U.S., the rest going to Canada and Mexico.  It’s unclear how the news will impact the otherwise well-reviewed crossover.

As for Volvo, its recall impacts just 1,469 S80 models from the 2011 to 2013 model-years.  The maker says faulty software can prevent the automatic transmissions in those vehicles from downshifting from fifth to fourth gears.  In turn, that could lead the vehicle to stall and possibly result in an accident, according to the NHTSA.

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The 2012 version of the S80 recently was recalled for faulty wiring problems.

Both makers plan to notify owners in the coming weeks.  Dealers will make all necessary repairs at no cost to those owners.

The sudden rush of recalls may simply be a coincidence but industry observers suggest they are seeing a pattern that may be the result of the 2009-2010 Toyota safety scandal.  The maker famously crowed about how it had talked NHTSA out of a potentially expensive recall, triggering a tongue-lashing for both from Capitol Hill lawmakers.

The federal safety agency has since become less forgiving of defects that makers might have traditionally handled through less headline-garnering steps, such as secret warranty programs designed to address problems only when a customer complained to a dealer.

More of those problems now appear to be generating full-fledged recalls.

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