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Ford recalls thousands of SUVs because engines might catch fire

Ford Motor Co. has asked the owners of 350,000 vehicles to take them into dealerships to be repaired under a three-pronged recall announcement. About 39,000 of those vehicles should be parked outdoors because their engines could catch fire, Ford said. 

The Michigan automaker said in U.S. government documents posted Thursday that it doesn't know what's causing fires in some 2021 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

Still, the company said the fires can happen even while the engines are off. There have been 16 reports of fires under the hood and 14 of them were in rental company vehicles. Ford hasn't developed a repair for the fires, which appear to start at the back of the engine compartment on the passenger side.

"We are working around the clock to determine the root cause of this issue and subsequent remedy so that customers can continue to enjoy using their vehicles," Jeffrey Marentic, general manager of Ford passenger vehicles, said in a statement.

Of the 16 fires, 12 happened while the SUV engines were turned off, Ford said in a statement. Ford said it's not instructing owners to stop driving the SUVs, although those who might not be able to follow the park outdoors instructions should contact their dealer or the company.

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Ford began investigating fire reports on March 24. Company officials said the fires appear to be limited to SUVs built from December 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. The automaker is also recalling about 310,000 heavy-duty trucks because the driver's air bag may not inflate in a crash.

The recall covers certain 2016 F-250, 350, 450 and 550 trucks. Dust can get into the air-bag wiring in the steering wheel, disconnecting the electricity. Dealers will replace steering-wheel wiring. Owners will be notified by mail starting July 5.

The engine fire recall comes one month after Ford recalled more than a quarter-million Explorer SUVs because they could roll away unexpectedly while shifted into park. Ford and General Motors also recalled nearly 682,000 compact SUVs in April because the windshield wipers can fail

Ford is also recalling 464 electric Mustang Mach-E SUVs from 2021. A software problem can cause unintended acceleration, deceleration or a loss of drive power in all-wheel-drive vehicles. The powertrain control computer may not detect a software error, Ford said in documents posted Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"Kudos to NHTSA and Ford for getting the word out about this, but why did it take 16 vehicles catching fire to do so?" Teresa Murray, Consumer Watchdog at the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, an advocacy group, said in a statement. "That's 15 fires that didn't have to happen, and 39,000 families that have been at unnecessary risk for who knows how long."

Ford officials recently reported the company lost $3.1 billion over the past three months, in part because of a shortage of semiconductor chips which limited the number of pickups and SUVs available for sale in North America, but also as a result of its heavy investment in electric-vehicle startup Rivian. 

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