Company News

REFILES-UPDATE 3-Ford offers fix for Fusion hybrid brake glitch

 (Refiles to add dropped word in first paragraph)
 * 17,600 Fusion, Milan hybrids may have software glitch
 * Hybrids in question were built on or before Oct 17, 2009
 (Adds details on affect of regenerative brake cutting out,
background on Ford and Toyota)
 DETROIT, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co F.N said on
Thursday it would fix up to 17,600 hybrid sedans that could
suffer braking problems as its largest rival, Toyota Motor Corp
7203.T, grapples with a reported braking problem on its
market-leading Prius hybrid.
 The Ford decision came the same day U.S. safety regulators
opened a formal probe into consumer complaints that brakes on
Toyota's 2010 Prius had momentary problems after motorists
rolled over potholes or bumps, allegedly causing four crashes.
 Toyota has faced criticism for not notifying consumers
about suspected problems with the brakes on its Prius right
away, but Ford waited until Thursday to announce possible
braking issues though it had known about them for months.
 The Ford announcement came as Consumer Reports said one of
its engineers ran a stop sign in a residential area when the
brake pedal on a Fusion hybrid sank further than normal and
warning lights lit up the dashboard. The car coasted to a stop
with minimal brake feel, Consumer Reports said.
 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database
has a complaint from a motorist claiming that the Fusion hybrid
brakes offered minimal resistance. The administration has no
formal investigation into the Ford vehicles.
 Ford said a software glitch on Ford Fusion and Mercury
Milan hybrids built on or before Oct. 17 could cause drivers to
perceive a loss of braking as the car shifts unnecessarily from
regenerative braking into the conventional mode.
 Ford was not treating the matter as a full-on recall
because the automaker did not see the result of the software
glitch as a brake failure. Ford said on Thursday it would
upgrade the software on the vehicles and expects to notify
customers by mail that the fix is available at dealerships.
 Consumer Reports said that with the regenerative braking
disengaged, as happened in the incident near their track, the
brake pedal needed to be pushed more than an inch farther down
to engage the conventional brakes.
 "The fact that the pedal goes away is I think for many
people very disconcerting, but the fact is if you push hard you
do go in to full braking," said David Champion, director of
Consumer Reports' auto testing center.
 Ford spokesman Said Deep said the automaker started to see
indications of the glitch in October and had notified dealers
of the possibility and a software upgrade to resolve it.
 "It's a customer satisfaction program because the car still
maintains ... full conventional braking," Deep said.
 The automaker received a handful of reports about the issue
and had heard reports of one minor accident, but no injuries as
a result, Deep said.
 In Consumer Reports' case two weeks ago, a test engineer
was driving a Fusion hybrid the influential nonprofit magazine
bought last year for a review published in September when the
braking incident occurred. The magazine has maintained its
recommendation on the Fusion hybrid after the incident.
 "Being a customer satisfaction program I think is OK in
that they do have brakes if you push hard enough," Champion
 (Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall, Kevin Krolicki,
Soyoung Kim and John Crawley; Editing by David Gregorio and
Carol Bishopric)