By Stephen Manning & Tom Krisher, AP Business Writers
DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it will add 4.5 million older-model vehicles to the long list of those recalled because a defective cruise control switch could cause a fire.
The latest voluntary action pushes Ford's total recall due to faulty switches to 14.3 million registered vehicles over 10 years, capping the company's largest cumulative recall in history involving a single problem.
The recall covers 1.1 million Ford Windstar minivans that had a small risk of fire due to internal leaking from the switches. Ford said in a letter to federal regulators that it found a small number of reported fires linked to the problem during an internal investigation that began last year, but did not specify how many.
The remaining 3.4 million vehicles are Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models. Ford said there were no reports of fires with those models, most of them trucks and sport utility vehicles, but that they were included in the recall because they use the same switches. All vehicles covered by the recall are from the 1992 to 2003 model years.
Ford advised owners of all vehicles covered by the recall to park them outside until they are mailed instructions by the end of the month on how to get repairs.
The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker has struggled for a decade with the problem, which has prompted hundreds of complaints and dozens of lawsuits over fires allegedly caused by faulty switches. A small number of injuries have also been linked to the problem, though none were reported in the latest recall. Previous recalls included some of Ford's most popular brands, like the popular F-series of pickup trucks.
Ford began an investigation of Windstar vehicles in February 2008 after receiving a growing number of reports of fires under the vehicles' hoods, according to a letter the company sent to the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency late last week announcing the recall. In June 2008, NHTSA began its own probe of the problem.