DETROIT (AP) - Government safety regulators are investigating
complaints that throttles can stick on older-model Ford Escape and
Mazda Tribute SUVs and cause them to crash.
The probe, announced Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration, affects 730,000 SUVs from the 2001 to 2004
model years that are powered by V-6 engines.
The safety agency said it has received 99 complaints from owners
of the SUVs alleging 13 crashes, nine injuries and one death caused
by the problem.
The throttles on the SUVs can fail to return to idle when the
driver takes his foot off the gas pedal, according to agency
Sixty-eight of the complaints were about the Escape, and 31
involved the Tribute, a nearly identical vehicle made by Ford for
Mazda. Dearborn, Mich-based Ford used to own about one-third of
Mazda. But Ford began cutting ties in 2008, and in 2010 lowered its
ownership to 3.5 percent.
Investigators are looking into whether the sticky throttles
could have been caused by repairs made as part of a 2004 recall of
the same vehicles. About 590,000 of the vehicles were recalled in
December of 2004 to fix an accelerator cable defect, and the
documents say the repairs could have damaged the cruise control
The investigation comes just over a week after the Center for
Auto Safety, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group petitioned NHTSA to
investigate the Escape and Tribute problems. The group also wants a
hearing on whether Ford and Mazda met obligations to notify owners
and fix defects in their vehicles.
But NHTSA said in documents filed Tuesday that it has denied the
group's petition because the agency has been looking at the Escape
and Tribute problems since early in 2012. The agency said it began
gathering information after the driver of a 2002 Escape was killed
in a crash in Payson, Ariz., this past January.