Ford to fix brake problem on Milan, Fusion hybrids

DETROIT (AP) - Ford Motor Co. plans to fix 17,600 Mercury Milan
and Ford Fusion gas-electric hybrids because of a software problem
that can give drivers the impression that the brakes have failed.
The automaker says the problem occurs in transition between two
braking systems and at no time are drivers without brakes.
The decision to fix the 2010 model cars came after a test driver
for Consumer Reports magazine experienced the problem as he was
driving a Fusion Hybrid.
Ford spokesman Said Deep says braking power seems to drop away
as the car makes a transition from regenerative brakes to the
conventional system. The Ford hybrids have regenerative brakes,
which capture energy from braking to help recharge the battery, in
addition to a conventional system that stops the car using
hydraulic pressure.
Deep says Ford will notify the car owners to bring their cars in
for a software fix. He said there is no safety problem with the
cars. The automaker called the repairs a "customer satisfaction
program" and said it was not a full-fledged recall. Deep said Ford
reported the problems to a U.S. safety agency, the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration.
The move comes on the same day that NHTSA began an evaluation of
braking problems on the 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid. With the Prius,
antilock brakes can fail momentarily while the car transitions
between its gasoline and electric motors.
Ford told dealers about a fix on Thursday. They already had the
software to repair it in case it came up, Deep said.
He said Ford did not notify all the owners before Consumer
Reports found the problem because the number of problems was small.
"We're taking this action proactively to kind of address some
of the customer problems we've seen," he said.
The software fix changes the pedal feel so it doesn't drop, he
said.
The cars were built before Oct. 17, 2009. For models built after
that date, Ford fixed the software at the factory to change the
feel of the pedal, Deep said.
Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports' deputy editor for online autos,
said one of the magazine's most experienced test drivers braked
while approaching a curve in a Fusion hybrid last month, and the
brake pedal dropped about an inch.
"They didn't react the way he expected," Bartlett said. "He
perceived it to be a brake failure of some kind."
The driver coasted to a stop and shut off the engine, and when
he restarted it, the brakes worked normally, Bartlett said.
Consumer Reports notified Ford, which responded quickly to
evaluate the problem, Bartlett said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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