DETROIT - A manufacturing problem at a company that makes fuel lines forced Ford to recall thousands of its brand-new Escape small SUVs and tell owners to stop driving them right away.
Ford Motor Co. announced the recall Thursday, saying there was a risk of an engine fire.
In documents filed by Ford and posted Friday on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website, the company said fuel lines were "mechanically scored" or damaged on the outside during manufacturing. The lines, made by a TI Group Automotive Systems plant in Indiana, can split when pushed over a connector fitting, and leaking fuel could ignite.
The recall involved 11,500 Escapes. About 4,800 have been sold to customers; the rest are still on dealer lots.
Ford urged customers in the U.S. and Canada not to drive the SUVs and to contact dealers, who would pick up the Escape and drop off a loaner car. The problem affects only 2013 Escapes equipped with 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engines.
TI Automotive spokesman Frank Buscemi said in an email that the company is "working with Ford to identify root cause and resolve the issue."
The problem was discovered June 9 when a newly built Escape caught fire while a Ford worker was driving it from the Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky to a holding lot for shipping, the documents said. After two more fires — one on June 18 involving an Escape being driven by a customer in Canada — Ford engineers determined that the problem involved the engine compartment fuel line.
The company approved the recall on July 16, according to the documents.
No one was hurt in any of the three fires, the documents said.
"Vehicles are not to be driven until this repair has been completed," Ford said in a letter dated Thursday telling dealers how to handle the problem. The warning not to drive the Escapes was in all caps and red ink. The company is telling dealers to tow the Escapes in for service.
It took 40 days from the first fire until the SUVs were recalled. Ford said Thursday it moved quickly to keep its customers safe. Ford hopes to have the repairs completed within two weeks.
This was the second recall of the new Escape in less than a week. Ford is recalling more than 10,000 Escapes to fix carpet padding that could interfere with braking. The Escape was the nation's top-selling SUV in June and is one of Ford's most popular vehicles
Problems often crop up when new vehicles are introduced, even though automakers have improved quality in recent years.