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Ford CEO Says He’s ‘Disappointed’ With Escape SUV Recalls

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Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co.’s struggles to meet growing demand and introduce new engine technologies contributed to four recalls on its redesigned Escape sport-utility vehicle last year, Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said yesterday.

“We’re very disappointed that happened on a fantastic new vehicle,” Mulally told reporters after a speech at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit. “This is a company that’s going up in production for the first time in years.”

Mulally, 67, made quality a cornerstone of his turnaround plan for the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker. The 2013 Escape, Ford’s top-selling SUV, has been recalled four times since it was introduced in May. The new Fusion sedan has had two recalls since its October debut.

Ford “learned from every one” of the Escape recalls, which were caused by both technical and manufacturing issues, Mulally said. The company can now better fix glitches in advanced engines that use direct injection and turbo charging to improve fuel economy, he said.

“You do all the testing and all the analytical work and you learn that there were a couple of modes in there that we didn’t anticipate,” Mulally said. “So we have added that into our procedures so we’ll catch them the next time. They’re very sophisticated products.”

Sales of the Escape and Fusion were “adversely affected” in December by recalls, Ken Czubay, Ford’s U.S. sales chief, said on a Jan. 3 conference call. Deliveries of the Escape fell 21 percent for the month to 20,131.

Honda Motor Co.’s CR-V reclaimed the top spot among SUVs from Ford’s Escape last year in the U.S. Deliveries of Tokyo-based Honda’s CR-V surged 29 percent to 281,652, while Ford’s Escape climbed 2.6 percent to 261,008.

Ford rose 2.2 percent to $14.30 yesterday in New York, the highest closing price since May 2011.

To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Detroit at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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