The Ford logo on the automaker's Dearborn, Mich., headquarters.(Photo: Carlos Osorio, AP file)
As embarrassments go, Ford Motor
couldn't face a worse recall than one that wraps together two critical
2013 vehicles and a technology that it has spent the most time and money
trying to burnish: Fusion sedan, Escape crossover and the EcoBoost
Yet on Monday Ford was at a loss to explain
why the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine in two big-selling models was
overheating and might catch fire or how it plans to fix the 89,153
vehicles involved. Ford is urging owners to park their vehicles, contact
their dealers and arrange for loaners.
So far, 12 fires were
reported in the Escapes and one in the Fusion, which just went on sale,
says Ford spokesman Said Deep. No injuries were reported.
more, the latest recall marks the fourth for the Escape since last
spring. One involved a swatch of carpet that could block the gas pedal.
The others all involved the same 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine,
including a recent recall because of coolant leaking from a freeze plug.
track record now has some asking whether the automaker, which has tried
hard to burnish the reputation of the Ford nameplate under CEO Alan
Mulally, has gone astray.
"It does beg the question: 'Does Ford
have a serious quality problem?' " says George Cook, executive professor
of marketing at the Simon Graduate School of Business at the University
of Rochester and a former Ford marketing executive.
Consumer Reports recently
dropped Ford to second-to-last place in its annual reliability survey.
Only two years ago, Ford was in the top 10. Ford has created so many
all-new products that the kinks haven't been worked out of many of them,
lsays Jake Fisher, head of the non-profit magazine's automotive test
The Ford brand has had 92 recalls since 2009,
substantially higher than the next highest brands Chevrolet, at 70,
and Toyota, at 68, a search of the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration database reveals. Of course, such a search doesn't take
into account the severity of individual recalls or that the Ford
nameplate is part of the larger Ford Motor. When recalls in its various
divisions are added up, General Motors outpaces Ford on recalls overall.
hurts even more that the problems involve 73,320 Escapes and 15,833
Fusions. In launching the new Escape this year, Ford said the two models
compete in segments that make up 30% of all sales.
economy a top consideration, Ford has heavily touted its EcoBoost
engines and is bringing them to 90% of its models. Though the recall
is "just isolated to that engine," the 1.6-liter, Ford fears the recall
"might tarnish the entire line of engines," says Mike Omotoso, senior
manager of global powertrain for LMC Automotive.
Some buyers sound deeply unhappy.
buyer complained to NHTSA that he had already gone through three recall
repairs on his 2013 Escape and was driving on the freeway near
Charlottesville, Va., when a pop came from the engine. The engine
temperature light came on, steam, then oily smoke poured from the engine
and it burst into flames.
Another owner, Andrew Portare, says
his engine hasn't overheated but his Escape has already been back to
the dealer for several other problems. Now the Chantilly, Va., executive
is miffed that Ford is telling him to park his Escape and use a free
"I just paid $26,000 for this car. Now they tell me to park it," he says.
Portare says he's fed up. "I feel like I should be able to get a refund," he says.