Ford announced today it was recalling 485,000 Ford Escapes from the 2001-2004 model year worldwide to fix throttles that can stick open, linked to 13 injuries and one fatal crash. The move comes just a week after the federal government opened a probe into the cars -- but years after safety advocates and Ford's customers started complaining about it.
Ford's recall -- its third in two weeks on versions of the Escape SUV, one of its best-selling vehicle -- came in the wake of a petition from the Center for Auto Safety to federal officials. That petition argued Ford knew a previous recall could create a kink in the cable used by the cruise control to keep the throttle open; that kink can cause the cable to stick, leaving the throttle open after the driver takes their foot off the gas pedal.
The Center contended that since 2004, when the first recall created the potential for a kink, more than 100 Escape owners complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the problem. The issue became well-enough known among Escape owners for them to post videos online showing how to avoid the problem.
Ford says it will take a few weeks to send parts to dealers for the recall, and in the meantime Escape owners can ask dealers to unhook their cruise control cables as a safety measure. Meanwhile, the move won't likely end the NHTSA probe and lawsuits from owners wondering why it took Ford seven years and the publicity from a fatal crash to act.