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Ford recalls 1.4 million vehicles due to faulty seat belts

AP and staff reports

WASHINGTON – Local dealers received details last week on a Ford Motor Co.

Monday, July 23, 2001

WASHINGTON – Local dealers received details last week on a Ford Motor Co. recall affecting 1.4 million 2001 model vehicles.

The recall, announced July 13, came because some seat belt buckles made by a Cleveland company may not latch properly.

The recall involves only certain 2001 model year Ford Crown Victoria, Windstar, Ranger, F-series trucks, Excursion and Expedition; the Mercury Grand Marquis; the Lincoln Town Car and Navigator; and Mazda B-series trucks. It includes only 2001 models built through May 26, when the supplier improved its manufacturing and testing process.

Ford said it had two reports of minor injuries because of the problem, but had not confirmed them.

Ford officials said dealers will inspect the front driver side and passenger side seat belt buckles. The front center and all rear seat belt buckles are not affected, the automaker said.

Pete Gayheart, service manager at Boyd County Ford in Ashland, Ky., said vehicle identification numbers can be checked via computer to see if the vehicle is affected by the recall.

"It’s just certain ones in the 2001 model year," Gayheart said. "And customers will receive a letter. Based on that, they can give us a call to schedule an appointment for an inspection. We certainly want to take care of our customers."

The buckles that prompted the recall were made by Cleveland-based TRW Inc. The company also announced July 13 that it plans to take an undisclosed charge in the second quarter 2001 to cover the recall cost.

Ann O’Neill, director of vehicle service and programs for Ford Customer Service Division, said the automaker estimates that less than 5 percent of the buckles may not latch if they are not pushed in hard enough.

”But even if a vehicle was to have a defective buckle, the potential for any safety issue is relatively small,” she said in a statement.

She said customers can help latch the seat belts by pushing the tongue quickly and forcefully into the buckle, then pulling on it to make sure it is secure.

If the release button does not return to its full up position after latching, the buckle may not be fully latched and may not protect the occupant in a crash.

Vehicle owners will be notified of the recall by mail this month. Testing and replacement of potentially defective buckles will be free.

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On the Net: http://www.ford.com