Thu, Dec 20, 2012 - Page 15 News List

Ford positive on sales despite spate of safety recalls

Reuters and AFP, DETROIT and WASHINGTON

Ford Motor Co is not experiencing a hit to its auto sales as a result of a recent spate of safety recalls, chief operating officer Mark Fields said.

“I think overall our sales are doing well,” Fields told reporters on Tuesday, adding that consumers have a good perception of the quality of Ford products.

“But we also understand that’s a very precious thing and we’re working very hard every day to deliver that quality commitment to our costumers,” Fields said.

Last week, Ford issued the fourth recall on next year’s Escape crossover since July. The most recent recall was for increased risk of an engine fire due to a software glitch in the cooling system of the Escape as well as the midsize Fusion sedan.

On Monday last week, the same day as the Escape and Fusion recall, the US Environmental Protection Agency said it would investigate claims by Consumer Reports magazine that Ford’s hybrid models of the Fusion and C-Max crossover fell well short of the official fuel economy rating of 47 miles per gallon (20km per liter).

Ford’s 2013 Escape launched in July. Fields said this month’s sales were going well, but he declined to offer an estimate of this month’s sales.

Ford sales rose 6.4 percent last month from the previous November.

This year’s sales through last month were up 5 percent at 2.03 million new vehicles, for a 15.5 percent share of the US auto market, down from 16.8 percent market share at the same time last year, when sales for Japanese rivals Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co were limited due to the earthquake and tsunami in March last year.

Separately, Toyota will pay a record US$17.35 million dollar fine for failing to promptly notify US authorities about a safety defect on 2010 Lexus models, a federal agency said on Tuesday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Toyota had agreed to pay the penalty, the maximum fine allowable under the law, “in response to the agency’s assertion that the automaker failed to report a safety defect to the federal government in a timely manner.”

“This action represents the single highest civil penalty amount ever paid to NHTSA for violations stemming from a recall,” the NHTSA said.

Toyota announced in late June the recall in the US of 154,000 2010 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h to fix a problem with the floor mat that could trap the accelerator pedal, causing undesired acceleration.

The NHTSA noted the company’s recall came after it had contacted Toyota in May about a trend in floor mat pedal entrapment in 2010 Lexus RX 350s.

A month later, Toyota told the agency it was aware of 63 alleged incidents of the problem since 2009, it said.

Under US federal law, all auto manufacturers must notify the NHTSA within five business days of determining that a safety defect exists or that the vehicle is non-compliant with US auto safety standards and to promptly conduct a recall.

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