The 2001 Ford Escape was off to a rocky start before setting even one of its all-terrain tires on a dirt road. That is, the latest sport-utility from the Ford Motor Company was baptized by a forthright--if somewhat embarrassing--procession of recalls. At the time of the Escape's debut, Ford was embroiled in the Firestone tire debacle, so the company wasn't about to take any chances regarding potential mechanical failure of another high-volume product. The official list of gremlins included cracked plastic on part of the cruise-control servo, a damaged or incorrectly installed steering-wheel fastener, a fractured ball socket in the windshield-wiper linkage, four-wheel-drive rear hubs mistakenly assembled on two-wheel-drive models, and damaged O-ring seals near the fuel filter.
While putting customers on a first-name basis with the service technician may not be the best way to launch a new product, the alternative was considerably less attractive. To illustrate a worst-case scenario, imagine you're driving home from work in the rain and your wiper blades stop functioning. You try to cancel the cruise control, but the throttle kicks the car back up to speed. Now quite concerned, you slam the brakes, and the rear end breaks loose, as do the rear hub assemblies.... Read full article