Second major automaker takes action after investigation into deadly crash

PHOENIX - Mazda is warning its dealers they could be making an incorrect repair after a recall involving more than 100,000 2002-2004 Tributes.

This action comes after the ABC15 investigation at our sister station, KNXV in Phoenix, into a safety recall involving Ford Escapes and the crash that killed a 17 year-old Payson, Arizona girl in January .

Auto safety advocates are calling for a recall of nearly half a million cars – and now that number could be even higher.

"The Mazda Tribute and the Escape are twins," according to Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, "the same vehicle, same assembly line."

The ABC15 Investigators found Ford issued a recall on the accelerator cables in 2002-2004 Escapes in December 2004. At the same time, Mazda issued a nearly identical recall on the same model Tributes.

Ten months later, Ford sent a technical service bulletin, warning its dealers about how they could be performing that repair incorrectly.

If done incorrectly, the bulletin shows mechanics could cause damage to the speed control cable while replacing the accelerator cable for the recall.

But, by the time Ford issued that bulletin, records show more than 300,000 of the affected Escapes had already been repaired – without the corrected dealer instructions.

Records show Mazda's recall involved more than 121,000 Tributes, and the repair instructions sent for the initial recall are nearly identical to those Ford sent to its dealers.

While Mazda confirmed that the "Mazda Tribute and Ford Escape share the same powertrain system as well as acceleration and speed control system design and componentry," the ABC15 Investigators found that, unlike Ford, Mazda did not send out an updated repair bulletin to its dealerships warning them that the repair could be done incorrectly.

That means that the approximately 106,000 Tributes that have already been repaired in the Mazda recall were repaired without the new, corrected instructions.

DEADLY PAYSON CRASH

Payson teenager Saige Bloom died after a crash that occurred when her 2002 Ford Escape accelerated out of control in January. Her SUV was one of the 2002-2004 model Escapes that was recalled by Ford in December, 2004.

An inspector hired by the Bloom family's attorney says that he found Saige's Escape had a damaged speed control cable – what Ford had warned its dealers that could happen in the repair update they sent to dealers.

Ford tells the ABC15 Investigators, "We are in the midst of our investigation, and we have not reached any conclusions." The company says it is working with government regulators to determine the cause of the accident.

The Blooms have not filed a lawsuit and regulators have not made any determinations involving the accident.

Read Ford Motor Company's full statements regarding the Escape recall and Bloom accident below.

Ditlow has called for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to "open a defect investigation into all 2002-04 Ford Escapes equipped with cruise control cables of the same design used in the Bloom Escape and the Escapes in recall 04V-574."

MAZDA TAKING ACTION

Today, Mazda issued that updated technical service bulletin to all Mazda dealerships, saying "Mazda was only recently made aware of an update to the original repair bulletin and is currently in the process of issuing the update."

But there are only about 16,000 Tributes left to repair. And the Center for Auto Safety says that's not enough.

The advocacy group filed a petition with the NHTSA asking the agency to hold a hearing about whether or not "Mazda reasonably met their obligation to notify owners and correct the defect at issue."

As for notifying owners who already had the recall repair done on 2002-2004 Tributes, Mazda tells us "we will need to study this further. If and when we do, the affected customers will be the first to find out."

FORD MOTOR COMPANY STATEMENT ON THE RECALL:

Ford is committed to informing our customers when any issues arise involving vehicle safety. In Dec. 2004, Ford issued a recall for 470,245 2002-2004 MY Escape SUVs to replace the accelerator cable. This included all Escape SUVs built from May 30, 2001 through Jan. 23, 2004.

A service bulletin update was shared with dealers on October 6, 2005 to ensure technicians were installing the cables properly. All service actions and updates, like this one, remain in the Ford dealer system indefinitely or until the fix is completed. This allows dealers to check on any recommended or outstanding repairs when the vehicle is brought in for service.

Escape owners were informed of this recall. Owners with any concerns or questions about this recall are always encouraged to contact our customer relationship center at 1-866-436-7332 with any questions.

FORD MOTOR COMPANY STATEMENT ON SAIGE BLOOM CRASH:

We offer our deepest sympathies to the Bloom family for their tragic loss. We are in the middle of our investigation and have not reached any

conclusions. We will work closely with NHTSA to determine the cause of the crash and will take appropriate action if warranted by the outcome of the investigation.

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