Ford Motor Co. issued a safety alert for the 2020 Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs on Wednesday, noting that the vehicles may be missing a part that keeps the car from moving while parked, "increasing the risk of crash."
The company, which has touted its two new sport utility vehicles built only in Chicago, as long-awaited flagship products, said in a news release that the vehicles may be missing the manual park release cover, which is not a minor issue.
"Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards require the manual park release cover be in place and only removable with a tool. If the cover is not installed, the manual park release lever may be inadvertently activated, which could result in unintended vehicle movement if the electronic park brake is not applied," Ford said in its release.
Ford spokeswoman Monique Brentley noted to the Detroit Free Press, "This is a safety compliance recall, vehicles are safe to drive. The majority of affected vehicles are in dealer inventory. The issue will be remedied prior to delivery to customers."
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Also, the instrument cluster of affected vehicles may be in factory mode, which disables warning alerts and chimes, and does not display the gear positions and which gear – drive, reverse, park, neutral – is selected, the Ford alert said.
Federal safety regulations require the gear positions and selected gear to be displayed whenever the shifter is not in park.
Ford said it is aware of one report of an accident occurring during vehicle transport within the production process. The incident resulted in only vehicle damage, Ford said.
The recall affects 13,896 vehicles in the United States and 239 in Canada. The majority of affected vehicles are at dealerships, Ford said. The issue will be fixed before the SUVs go to customers.
Affected vehicles were built at Chicago Assembly Plant and include:
2020 Ford Explorer vehicles built from March 27, 2019 to July 24, 2019.
2020 Lincoln Aviator vehicles built from April 10, 2019 to July 24, 2019.
Ford dealers will inspect the vehicle for the manual park release cover and install one, if necessary, the company said. Dealers will also verify the instrument cluster is out of factory mode and clear any diagnostic codes. The Ford reference number for this recall is 19C06.
Industry observers said they're surprised to hear of problems on high-profile products so soon.
“We are glad to hear no one was killed or seriously injured, but it certainly raises questions about the quality control process when brand new, high-end, vehicles are being released from the factory where ‘park’ doesn’t work or the driver cannot even see what gear the vehicle is in," said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. "These are glaring violations of federal safety regulations.”
Ford noted during the launch of the 2020 Ford Explorer that the popular SUV is the all-time best-selling SUV in America.
Prices for the 2020 Ford Explorer range from $32,765 to $58,250.
The midsize luxury Aviator starts around $50,000.
Ongoing Explorer woes
This isn't the first alert for Explorer owners this summer. Ford issued a recall on June 12 for vehicles built in 2011-17 because of a safety issue.
"Vehicles that are exposed to frequent full rear suspension articulation (jounce and rebound) may experience a fractured rear suspension toe link. A fracture of a rear toe link significantly diminishes steering control, increasing the risk of a crash," the company said in its release.
One customer reported hitting a curb when the toe link broke, Ford said. The company is not aware of any reports of injury related to this condition in markets included in this action, it said.
This action affects approximately 1.2 million vehicles in the United States and federalized territories, approximately 28,000 in Canada and one in Mexico.
Affected vehicles were built at Chicago Assembly Plant, May 17, 2010 to Jan. 25, 2017.
Dealers will remove and replace the affected parts and align the rear suspension. The Ford reference number for this recall is 19S17.
Explorers in China recalled, too
In addition, Ford started recalling in China on Aug. 1 a total of 44,333 "imported" Explorer vehicles built in 2012-17 because of a defective design – steering control may be reduced when the rear suspension system is functioning under high load, posing a safety risk, according to China's market regulator and the Xinhua News Agency.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ford recalls 2020 Explorer, Lincoln Aviator SUVs for crash risk