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Ford, Toyota recall millions of trucks, SUVs

"It shows that we were right," says a Tampa attorney who represents owners of Ford vehicles that caught fire.

Associated Press
Published September 8, 2005

WASHINGTON - Ford and Toyota, two of the world's largest automakers, on Wednesday recalled nearly 5-million pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in separate moves to respond to concerns of engine fires and problems with the power steering system.

The recall by Ford Motor Co., the fifth-largest auto industry recall in U.S. history, involved 3.8-million pickups and SUVs from the 1994-2002 model years, including the top-selling F-150 pickup.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ford have been investigating complaints of engine fires linked to the cruise control switch system.

Toyota Motor Corp., meanwhile, recalled 978,000 sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks over complaints that a rod linking the steering wheel and the wheels could fracture when the steering wheel is turned while the vehicle is stopped. The affected vehicles include the 1990-1995 4Runner SUV, 1989-1995 truck 4WD and 1993-1998 T-100 pickup.

In the Ford case, NHTSA said Wednesday it was reviewing 1,170 allegations of engine fires related to the vehicles and would continue an investigation launched earlier this year. There have been allegations of three deaths in cases cited in news reports or lawsuits in Iowa, Georgia and Arkansas.

In May, a Tampa attorney filed what was thought to be the first class-action lawsuit against Ford on behalf of those who bought vehicles with defective switches. One lawsuit targeted parts recalled earlier this year. A second targeted parts on vehicles recalled Wednesday.

"It shows that we were right," said Tampa attorney Mike Peacock, who represents several families whose cars burst into flame.

Ford's recall includes the 1994-2002 F-150, 1997-2002 Ford Expedition, 1998-2002 Lincoln Navigator and 1994-1996 Ford Bronco equipped with factory-installed speed control. It covers most of the vehicles being evaluated by NHTSA.

Ford said its inquiry found brake fluid could leak through the cruise control's deactivation switch, creating the potential for corrosion in the system's electrical components and potentially overheating and a fire.

Owners will be notified by mail immediately. Dealers will install a fused wiring harness to act as a circuit breaker in the system. The company said the harness would cut off electrical current to the switch if the current increases.

Texas Instruments Inc. supplied the switch in all of the models. TI spokeswoman Gail Chandler noted that the switch was one part of the system and said the company "continues to have confidence in the safe design of the switch itself."

The Ford F-series truck has been the best-selling full-size pickup for nearly three decades. In July, when the company offered its employee discount to all buyers, the F-series set a record for the highest monthly sales of any vehicle since the 1920s with total sales of 126,905 trucks.

Toyota said its recall would begin in mid September and was based on seven confirmed cases of the power steering problem in T100 vehicles. No crashes have been tied to the issue.

Toyota's profits were down 7 percent to $2.4-billion in the April-June period but the company is generally healthier than its U.S. rivals. Toyota's U.S. sales were up 11.4 percent in the first eight months of this year, compared with an average increase of 3.5 percent for the Big Three. Car sales made up most of that increase. Sales of light trucks were up only 2 percent.

Ford shares rose 17 cents to close at $10.13 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. Toyota shares fell 7 cents to close at $83.78 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Times Staff Writer Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press.

[Last modified September 8, 2005, 01:50:14]

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