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Ford rolls out software fix for hybrid brakes

by Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Ford Motor Co. announced Thursday that it will ask owners of its Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrids sedan to bring their car into their Ford dealer to replace software that operates the car's braking system.

While the cars maintain full braking ability, Ford said, drivers may occasionally experience a strange feeling in the brakes under certain circumstances.

Brakes in hybrid cars, such as the Fusion Hybrid, operate differently from brakes in most cars. In addition to standard brakes, which use friction from pads pressed against drums or rotors, the electric motors in hybrids also help slow the car. The process also generates electricity to recharge the batteries.

In some cases, the Fusion Hybrid may bypass the initial "regenerative braking" phase -- when electric motors are slowing the car -- and may rely only on conventional hydraulic braking using pads.

In those cases, the driver feels the pedal going farther toward the floor than usual, according to an engineer for Consumer Reports magazine who experienced the problem in one of the magazine's test vehicles.

"While the vehicles maintain full braking capability, customers may initially perceive the condition as loss of brakes," Ford said in a statement.

No injuries related to the issue have been reported, Ford said.

Ford will send letters to customers, asking them to bring their cars in to get the patch, whether they've experience problems or not.

Following recent revelations of braking problems with Toyota's Prius hybrid car, Ford may be getting more aggressive with this problem in order prevent a wave of similar-sounding complaints, suggested David Champion, head of auto testing at Consumer Reports. The Fusion's braking issue seemed less serious than in the Prius, though, Champion said. To top of page

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