Ford recalling more than 351,000 subcompact cars

DEARBORN, Mich. - Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday that it is voluntarily recalling more than 350,000 of its popular Focus subcompact cars with at least one of three suspected defects.

There have been no reported accidents resulting from any problems with the vehicles' cruise control cables, rear wheel and brake drum assemblies or A-pillar interior trim, Ford said.

The recall involves a total of 351,102 model year 2000 Focus cars, whose owners are being asked to upgrade the vehicles to meet new federal standards for protecting passengers against head injuries.

Dealers will install new A-pillar trim panels with improved energy-absorbing material. The panels are near the windshield.

Owners of 33,225 cars are being asked to return them to dealers to have the cruise control cable inspected. Ford has received 12 reports of accelerators sticking when pressed to the floor, something spokesman Mike Vaughn said is countered when the brake is applied.

Owners of 260,390 of the vehicles will be asked to have the cars' rear wheel hub assemblies inspected. Ford said it has received 15 reports of rear wheel and brake drum assemblies separating when the hub retaining nut that secures the rear wheel bearings became loose.

Vaughn said Ford's tests on the Focus were meant to meet federal head-impact protection standards that took effect last year. But he said engineering changes elsewhere in the car apparently affected performance in the A-pillar trim panels.

That possible defect was discovered during National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests and confirmed by Ford.

Ford has sold 225,239 of the Focus cars this year through September, trailing only the Taurus in the automaker's stable of cars. It has lured in a far younger audience than the company was able to draw with its previous subcompact candidate, the Escort.

Ford shares fell 19 cents to $24.44 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

A California judge last week ordered the automaker to recall 1.7 million Fords sold in that state to check ignition systems with an alleged design flaw said to cause the vehicles to stall. Ford says said the vehicles and their ignition systems are safe.

The automaker already is involved in recalling 6.5 million Firestone tires - standard equipment on Ford Explorers - that are being investigated in connection with more than 100 highway deaths.

Industry analyst Wes Brown of Nextrend said Tuesday that given Ford's involvement in the Firestone tire fallout, Tuesday's recall announcement likely won't further hurt the automaker.

''As long as Ford handles (the recall) properly with owners, by the end of the week it'll be completely forgotten,'' Brown said.


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