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U.S. regulators upgrade look at Ford Focus fires

DETROIT, Aug 15 Reuters reported that U.S. vehicle safety regulators have upgraded their investigation into reports of engine compartment fires in Ford Motor Co.'s Focus compact car, one of six defect investigations under way on the popular model. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its Web site on Thursday that earlier this month it upgraded its probe, covering all 690,000 Focus models Ford has sold in the United States since 2000.

NHTSA opened the investigation in March after receiving seven complaints of engine compartment fires that started around the battery. NHTSA said it has since had two more complaints, and Ford told the agency it had received 61 similar complaints and 286 warranty claims relating to fire, scorched parts or a burning odor.

Since going on sale in 2000, the Focus has been the target of nine safety recalls by Ford, and NHTSA has five other defect investigations on the vehicle.

Ford, in the midst of a turnaround plan aimed at cutting $3 billion in costs by mid-decade, has vowed to improve the quality of its vehicles.