This past week Ford recalled more than 421,000 Escapes and Mazda is recalled about 217,500 Tributes after reported issues with acceleration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that a defect in the cruise control cables could make the small crossover vehicles susceptible to unintended acceleration.
This issue of unintended acceleration is very similar to a problem in Toyota vehicles from 2009 which led to that company recalling more than 14 million vehicles, the largest vehicle of its kind.
Both the Ford Escape and the Mazda Tribute are clones of each other, meaning they are essentially the same exact vehicle underneath the paint. This means that what affects one vehicle is likely to afflict the other.
Following the recall, however, the NHTSA has said it plans to keep its investigation open pending further review of what happened. Specifically the agency is focusing on a service bulletin Ford issued to dealers in 2005 regarding the issue. Mazda seems to have known about the problem at that time but failed to issue a similar bulletin despite knowing the same problem would be happening in their Tribute model. They also question why Ford did not issue the recall in 2005 when it first became aware of the issue.
The bulletin is cited in the July 17, 2012, N.H.T.S.A. document announcing the Escape investigation.
The service bulletin refers to repairs for a different recall in 2004. The 2004 recall (PDF) involved a problem with the accelerator cable on 470,000 Escapes and 121,000 Tributes from the 2002-4 model years.
The 2005 service bulletin gave dealers revised repair instructions and warned of the possible damage to the adjacent cruise control cable.
The nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, which had asked the agency to investigate the Escapes, contends Ford should have known in 2005 there was a safety problem and carried out a recall….When the agency opened its investigation it noted it had 99 complaints about unintended acceleration from Escape and Tribute owners.
Under U.S. law automakers have five days to issue a recall of vehicles once they become aware of a serious safety issue. Volvo was recently handed a severe financial penalty for failing to meet the five day deadline.