Ford
is to recall 110,633 Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers to fix a device that
limits the top speed of the vehicles – a problem that was uncovered by tests run
in response to the Firestone tire recall, Associated Press reports.

This is the latest recall by Ford in the last few months and product quality
was on the agenda of a dealer meeting with top Ford executives called on Monday
(11/12/00) to discuss the high number of recalls issued this year.

According to AP, Ford said that model year 1999 and 2000 Explorers and Mountaineers
with a 3.27 or 3.55 rear axle ratio and 15-inch Firestone Wilderness AT tires
could reach a top speed at or above the 112mph rating of the tires.

The problem comes from a problem with software installed in the powertrain
control module, which should limit the top speed to 106 mph. Customers will
be instructed to take their vehicles to dealers, who will reprogramme the chip.

Ford spokesman Mike Vaughn told AP that the problem was found when Ford began
testing every tyre and axle combination on the Explorer after the recall of
6.5 million Firestone tires "to re-examine our engineering procedures."

Vaughn said the company found that the programming on the vehicles under recall
had never been verified.

No accidents or injuries have been reported from the problem, Vaughn said,
and repairs will be made free of charge.

This is the second recall for the Explorer this month; Ford earlier recalled
867,413 1995-97 Ford Explorers and 1997 Mercury Mountaineers to fix a problem
with suspension components.

The new Escape sport utility vehicle has been recalled or had a "stop
sale" order issued five times, even though it has only been on sale since
August. The popular Focus subcompact car has been recalled four times since
late last year. And earlier this year, Ford extended the warranty on thousands
of V6 engines with faulty head gaskets.

The recalls, some of which have been relatively minor, have drawn attention
in the wake of the highly publicised recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires mounted
mostly on Explorers. Ford executives have said they are more willing to issue
recalls as a way to ease customer concerns.

Ford dealer council chairman Jerry Reynolds told AP early on Monday that Ford
officials had asked for the meeting with dealers a month earlier than the council
had planned.

Reynolds said the council had two specific goals for the meeting: a plan to
improve vehicle quality and involving dealers in improvement efforts.

"We’re concerned about the number of recalls we’ve had in the last year
or so," Reynolds said. The council chairman added that dealers want to
know "what caused it, where are we headed in the future."

In a letter to Ford dealers, Reynolds said he would use the meeting as an opportunity
to "pound the message to Ford this is a huge concern for us from the standpoint
of long-term customer loyalty and also franchise value."