Like Toyota, Ford appears to have a hybrid brake problem. The U.S. automaker said it would repair more than 17,000 Ford Fusion hybrids to address a brake problem. Toyota, meanwhile, stopped short of a recall of its Prius hybrids, whose brakes are under scrutiny in both the U.S. and Japan.
The Ford announcement coincided with a report by Consumer Reports detailing a possible braking problem in the Fusion. A Consumer Reports engineer reportedly ran a stop sign when he was unable to stop his Ford hybrid with his normal braking action. Pushing the pedal farther than normal, he reported, caused the conventional brakes to engage, stopping the vehicle.
The engineer reported that, though his foot was firmly planted on the brake, the car slowed slightly but did not stop the way it normally did. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, at least one other fusion driver has reported a similar incident to the agency.
Ford said it traced the problem to a software glitch in both the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids built before October 17, 2009. The glitch is said to occur when the car shifts from electronic braking into conventional braking mode.
Ford said it could fix the problem by simply upgrading the software in the cars. The company said it would inform owners by mail to take their vehicles to a Ford dealer for the fix.
Consumer Reports said the glitch occurred right after its driver crossed a railroad track, calling to mind problems Prius drivers reported after hitting a pothole or other bump. Consumer Reports said the brake pedal needed to be pushed more than an inch farther down to engage the conventional brakes.
Ford said it is not treating the repair as a recall, but as a "customer satisfaction" matter. Technically, the carmaker says, it's not a brake failure because the brakes will engage if you push on the pedal hard enough.