Cruise (Not In) Control: Ford Recalls 155,000 Pickups, SUVs

Ford has announced a recall of about 155,000 pickup trucks and SUVs to repair a cruise control switch that could potentially catch fire.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ford Motor Co. has recalled about 155,000 pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles to repair a cruise-control switch system that already had led to millions of recalls.

Ford said the latest recall involved 2003 versions of the F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 Super Duty truck, the Ford Excursion SUV and the Lincoln Blackwood pickup.

The number two U.S. automaker had previously recalled 5.8 million vehicles in the past two years because of engine fires linked to the cruise control systems in trucks, SUVs and vans. That recall, one of the largest in history, covered vehicles from the 1994-2002 model years.

Ford officials said Monday an internal check found the switch systems in some early 2003 trucks and SUVs and the company acted to allow owners to get it repaired. The switch system could corrode over time, overheat and ignite.

The F-150 pickup has been the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 30 years and is considered crucial to Ford's attempts to return to profitability. The F-Series has faced soft sales in recent months because of a slowdown in housing construction. Sales for the pickup were down nearly 12 percent in 2006 to nearly 800,000 vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration completed an extensive investigation last year into the cause of the fires. Through August of 2006, the most recent data available, the agency had received 1,472 complaints connected to the problems, including 65 reports of fires.

The safety agency has said there have been no confirmed deaths or injuries, but lawsuits were filed in Iowa, Georgia and Arkansas over deaths allegedly tied to the fires. The automaker reached a settlement in the Iowa case in October.

Ford said last year its review found that brake fluid could leak through the cruise control's deactivation switch into the system's electrical components, leading to corrosion. The corrosion could produce a buildup of electrical current that could cause overheating and a fire.

To fix the problem, dealers install a fused wiring harness to the cruise control deactivation switch to prevent the risk of fire if the switch leaked. Ford officials said about 45 percent of the vehicles under the previous recalls have been repaired.

Owners of the newly recalled vehicles will receive notices in the mail next week and dealers will make the repairs at no cost to the owner.

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