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Ford issues recalls affecting 1.4 million vehicles

Recall comes as federal government scrutinizes auto industry after GM ignition switch problems

Ford Motor Co. is recalling 1.4 million SUVs and other cars in North America to fix steering, rust and floor mat problems.

The recalls, announced Thursday, come as automobile safety is being watched closely by Congress, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

All are investigating General Motors’ delayed recall of cars for ignition switch problems. The DOJ also recently made Toyota Motor Corp. pay a $1.2 billion penalty for hiding information from government safety regulators.

In the largest of the Ford recalls Thursday, the company is calling back 915,000 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner small SUVs to fix a problem with a torque sensor within the steering column. The problem could cause a loss of power-assisted steering, making the SUVs more difficult to control and increasing the risk of a crash, Ford said.

The company recommends one of three fixes: replacing the sensor, updating software or replacing the steering column. The recall affects some vehicles for model years 2008 through 2011.

Another recall covers 196,000 Ford Explorer SUVs from the 2011 through 2013 model years. An electrical problem in a steering gear can knock out power steering. Dealers will either update software or replace the steering gear.

Ford has also recalled more than 196,600 Taurus sedans from the 2010 through 2014 model years because they could rust around the license plate light — a flaw that can cause a short circuit and fire. The cars were sold in 20 states and in Washington, D.C.

The recall also covered about 82,500 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Lincoln Zephyr and Lincoln MKZ cars from the 2006 through 2011 model years. Floor mats in some cars could come in contact with the gas pedal if improperly installed. Dealers will replace the mats.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, an automobile price evaluation company, said the recalls could have been brought on partly by automakers’ heightened concerns over the GM and Toyota cases.

"I do think manufacturers are more willing to issue a recall at this point because their sheer number in recent months has become a sort of background white noise for consumers," he said in a statement.

But Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said Thursday's recalls are just part of the company's normal recall process.

The Associated Press 

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