Ford is to modify the lower seat trim of 16,500 2002 model Thunderbirds to eliminate the possibility of the driver’s seat belt contacting the seat mechanism in a severe frontal crash.

In a statement the company said it is taking action because the driver seat belt was found to be partially cut after the vehicle was subjected to a 35 mph frontal impact test into a solid barrier as part of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration‘s New Car Assessment Programme.

The seat belt did not fully separate and the driver test dummy was fully restrained throughout the test. The partial cut of the seat belt did not affect the test results, Ford said, adding that it has not received any customer reports of the problem occurring.

The recall is voluntary, Ford said, and it will begin sending letters to customers next week with instructions on when to take their cars to dealerships for no-charge modification.

Thunderbirds built after 24 April this year are not affected.

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This recall is the latest in an embarrassing series of newly launched Ford models requiring rectification soon after release. The company’s compact Escape/Maverick SUV was affected by several recalls early in its life as was the current Explorer which was affected by assembly line-inflicted tyre damage and broken tailgate glass.

Ford also recently announced yet another recall for its popular Focus compact which has been subject to numerous recalls since launch late in 1999 as a 2000 model.