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."