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Ford recalling SUVs over head protection testing

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it would recall nearly 150,000 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner sport utility vehicles after the government and the automaker reached different conclusions in safety tests measuring the driver's head protection in a crash.

The recall affects some SUVs from the 2005 model year without side curtain air bags or moonroofs. Ford told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it did not know of any reported injuries linked to the recalled vehicles.

In government testing, NHTSA found that the SUVs had a head injury score along the driver's side roofline near the front pillar that was marginally above the maximum allowed under federal regulations.

Ford conducted its own testing and found ``a significant compliance margin,'' but decided to conduct the recall ``to avoid a protracted dispute with the agency,'' according to an April 3 letter to NHTSA.

Ford said in a statement Thursday that the recall will make adjustments to reduce the stiffness of the energy-absorbing foam in the affected area.

Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley noted that the regulation allows many different test setups, and the one chosen by NHTSA was different than the setup selected by Ford. Kinley said the automaker chose the test setup that it felt was the ``worst-case scenario.''

Ford said it encourages all drivers and passengers to wear seat belts and ``a belted occupant is not likely to contact the area of the vehicle that is in question.''

The Escape and Mariner are built on the same platforms and considered corporate twins. Nearly 132,000 of the vehicles are in the United States and more than 15,000 are located in Canada.

Owners will be notified of the recall by mail by late May. They also can call Ford at 800-392-3673 or their local dealership to learn whether their vehicles are subject to the recall.
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