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DETROIT — Ford has paid the top penalty of $17.35 million to settle government allegations that the company was slow to recall nearly half a million SUVs last year.

The fine disclosed Thursday is linked to the July 2012 recall of nearly 485,000 Ford Escape SUVs from the 2001 to 2004 model years. The SUVs were recalled to fix sticking gas pedals that could cause crashes. It’s the maximum fine that safety regulators are allowed to levy.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contends that Ford knew about the problem in May 2011, but failed to take action until the agency began investigating the Escapes in July 2012. The probe was started after an Arizona girl died in an Escape crash last year.

Regulators felt they had a case that Ford violated the law by delaying the recalls, although Ford denied any violations, according to a June 28 settlement agreement posted online by NHTSA.

It is the third time in less than a year that an automaker has paid a fine or reached a settlement with NHTSA to sidestep lengthy public battles. In December, Toyota paid the maximum fine in a case that also involved a delayed recall. Earlier this year, Chrysler reached a deal to install trailer hitches on some older Jeeps, avoiding a wider recall.

Source: http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/08/01/ford-pays-top-fine-settle-gov-recall-spat/L6NLJ3MAIsj8lMUdMtx3xJ/story.html

Ford Pays $17.35 million to settle claims that it was slow to recall Escapes For Sticky Gas Pedal

August 1nd 2013