Ford tries its best on 4th recall
Special treatment urged for owners
Ford Motor Co. is taking pains to treat Escape owners gingerly after the fourth recall of the nameplate since its summer launch.
Company officials have urged dealers to make extra efforts in dealing with owners, and Ford is paying retailers $55 a day toward car rental fees for all 73,320 affected owners. Until Ford determines the fix for fires in its 1.6-liter EcoBoost engines, owners will continue driving loaners on Ford's nickel.
"They're really making an effort to do this right," said Pete DeLongchamps, senior vice president for financial services and manufacturer relations at Group 1 Automotive Inc., which has 10 Ford stores. "They want us to make it clear to customers that we're going to do everything possible to make things right."
Though relatively small compared with other manufacturer recalls, this is no ordinary glitch for Ford. It is the third recall of the new Escape involving possible engine fires.
Also affected this time are 15,833 owners of the redesigned Fusion mid-sized sedan with the same EcoBoost 1.6-liter turbocharged engine, potentially a larger owner base.
EcoBoost is Ford's star technology this year, delivering improved fuel economy using smaller turbocharged and direct-injection engines. There is no indication that there is anything wrong with the EcoBoost technology itself, but the recall affects two of its newest applications.
Ford issued the current recall on Nov. 30, covering the SE and SEL models of the 2013 Escape and 2013 Fusion with the 1.6-liter engine. Ford said the recall follows 12 reports of engines overheating and catching fire. The company has determined that the overheating causes fluids to leak inside the engine compartment, but Ford has not determined the necessary repair.
Last week seven reports of engine fires surfaced in Europe on vehicles that use the EcoBoost 1.6-liter engine. Ford product spokesman Said Deep said Ford investigated those reports and "determined there is no similar issue in Europe."
Both U.S. nameplates involved in the latest recall are critical new products for Ford.
Speaking to reporters last week during Ford's monthly sales report, Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said dealers are experiencing positive customer interactions from the way they are handling the recall.
"They're very appreciative of our proactive actions that we've taken on Escape," Czubay said of the affected owner base.
"They know that our No. 1 concern is safety and quality, and they're appreciative that we're acting very quickly."
Czubay said Escape sales were up 7 percent in November despite the earlier recalls. "There's still very strong demand at retail," he said. "They really like the vehicle."
Deep said dealers are being asked to make sure customers get loaner cars that are as close as possible to the vehicles they were driving. That is requiring some dealers to press local rental companies for more cars.
"They drove me to Enterprise and told me I could rent anything I wanted," said one Detroit-area owner whose new Escape went back to the dealership last week.
"Unfortunately there had been such a rush on rental cars, all they had left for me was a Chrysler minivan, which I didn't want. They'll let me come back and swap it for a sedan later."
You can reach Lindsay Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.