DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is telling owners of one version of the brand-new Ford Escape not to drive the SUVs until dealers can fix fuel lines that can crack and spill gasoline, causing engine fires.
The company issued the unusual warning on Thursday and said it is recalling 2013 Escapes equipped with 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines. Dealers will pick up the Escapes and drop off a loaner car that customers can use until the repairs are finished. The company is hoping to ship parts and get all the SUVs repaired in the next two weeks.
Ford says it has three reports of fires: two at the factory and one while a customer was driving an Escape. No one has been injured.
The recall affects 11,500 Escapes in the U.S. and Canada. Only 4,800 have been sold to customers. The rest are on dealer lots and will be fixed before they are sold, spokeswoman Marcey Zwiebel said. "We are obviously taking very quick action in the interest of our customers' safety," she said.
Escapes powered by other engines are not affected, nor are other Ford models with 1.6-liter engines, Zwiebel said.
This is the second recall of the redesigned Escape, which went on sale in June. On Saturday, the company said it would recall more than 10,000 Escapes to fix carpet padding that could interfere with braking. Problems often crop up when new vehicles are introduced, even though automakers have improved quality in recent years.
The new Escape is among Ford's top-selling vehicles. People bought 28,500 last month, up 28 percent from June 2011.
The Escapes in the latest recall were built at the company's Louisville, Ky., plant from early April through July 11.
Two recalls in one week are unusual, but more likely a coincidence than a sign of quality problems, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group. Ditlow, who has been critical of Ford's safety record, said he questions a vehicle's quality if it has three recalls in a year.
Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with the Edmunds.com automotive website said Ford apparently has learned from Toyota's slow response to unintended acceleration problems. "Since the Escape is one of Ford's highest volume models, it is critically important that it addresses the problem quickly and properly, which is what it appears to be is doing," she said.
Ford says owners should call dealers to get the problem fixed. If parts aren't available, dealers will drop off loaner cars for use until the repairs can be made. Replacing the fuel lines should take about one hour, Zwiebel said.
It's safe to park the Escapes in your garage because the fires happen only while the vehicles are moving, she added.
Older-model Escapes may also have safety problems. Government safety regulators are investigating complaints that throttles can stick on Escape and Mazda Tribute SUVs and cause them to crash. The probe, announced Tuesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, affects 730,000 SUVs from the 2001 to 2004 model years that are powered by V-6 engines.
The safety agency received 99 complaints from owners of the SUVs alleging 13 crashes, nine injuries and one death caused by the problem. The throttles on the SUVs can fail to return to idle when the driver takes his foot off the gas pedal, according to agency documents.
The older Escapes have not been recalled to fix the problem, although a recall is possible.