DETROIT, Dec 10 (Reuters) - A defect that raised the risk of an engine fire in Ford Motor Co's newly launched Escape and Fusion models was caused by a glitch in the software that monitors the vehicles' cooling systems, Ford said on Monday.
The No. 2 U.S. automaker recalled almost 90,000 Escape crossovers and Fusion sedans on Nov. 30 for the problem, which affects models equipped with the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine.
The original design of the cooling system was unable to handle a loss of pressure under certain conditions, which could trigger a vehicle fire when the engine was running, Ford said. Ford will update the software in the affected models.
"The software updates will better manage engine temperatures during a unique overheating condition that could occur under unique operating conditions," the company said in a statement.
There have been at least nine fires in vehicles owned by customers, Ford told U.S. safety regulators. Until the software is updated, Ford is urging customers with 2013 Escape and Fusion vehicles to contact their dealer for a free replacement vehicle.
"When a potential issue is identified, we act promptly on behalf of our customers, as we did this time," Ford's global product development chief Raj Nair said in a statement.
Ford has recalled its 2013 Escape crossover four times since July, twice for problems with its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. The Escape and Fusion are considered Ford's two most critical launches this year.