Ford to pay $17.4 million fine for delaying recall of Escape SUVs


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Ford Motor Co. has agreed to pay a maximum $17.4 million fine to the federal government for allegedly delaying the recall of Ford Escape SUVs with gas pedals that could become stuck.

A year ago, Ford recalled 421,000 Escapes in the U.S. for a problem in which the vehicles' gas pedals could remain depressed almost all the way down even after the driver had removed his or her foot. That would cause the SUVs to continue accelerating unintentionally.

"We take the safety of our customers seriously and continuously evaluate our processes for improvements," Ford said in a statement. "While we are confident in our current processes for quickly identifying and addressing potential vehicle issues, Ford agreed to this settlement to avoid a lengthy dispute with the government."

The settlement indicates that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes Ford knew of the problem for some time before alerting the agency and vehicle owners.

The fine, the largest allowed for any single instance, is equal to the amount paid by Toyota late last year for failing to promptly recall vehicles in which gas pedals could become stuck in floor mats. Toyota also paid several earlier fines for nearly the same amount in other cases.

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