Ford Motor Co. has paid $17.3 million to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to settle claims that it was slow to recall one of its SUVs with suspected sticky throttles. The settlement resolves allegations that Ford delayed recalling its 2001-04 Escape models after learning of a speed-control defect, where the throttle wouldn’t return to idle when the accelerator pedal was released. Ford paid NHTSA late last month after the agency notified the carmaker that it was prepared to investigate the timeliness of its recall.
NHTSA had opened a preliminary evaluation of the models on July 17, 2012, following a fatal car accident in Arizona potentially linked to the alleged speed-control issues. Ford notified the agency eight days later that it would be recalling some 423,634 vehicles in response to the probe. But the investigation by NHTSA indicated that Ford’s recall was untimely. It appears the carmaker may have already known of the faulty throttle and didn’t notify regulators or customers.
Under federal law, car manufacturers are required to notify NHTSA within five days of learning of a safety hazard. Derrell Lyles, a spokesman for NHTSA, said in a statement:
As government regulators, it is our job to ensure that manufacturers are held accountable to address safety issues promptly and responsively.
The settlement follows other investigations surrounding stuck-throttle issues in certain Ford models. NHTSA has received complaints detailing incidents of electronic throttle failure that resulted in the sudden reduction of engine power in Mercury Mariner and Milan model vehicles, according to filings. In October, the agency said that some of Ford’s Taurus sedans allegedly had defective speed-control cable collars, which caused throttles to stick.
In May, the agency began probing a possible defect in an estimated 400,000 Ford trucks that causes the engine to lose power during accelerations at high speeds. NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation has received 95 reports of reduced engine power during hard accelerations in F-150 trucks from model year 2011 to 2013, according to filings. The trucks have 3.5-liter gasoline turbocharged direct injection engines.
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