Ford is recalling about 196,500 of its 2004-7 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans to fix a corrosion problem that prevents the fold-down third-row seats from locking safely into place, Kelli Felker, a spokeswoman for the automaker, said today.
In a telephone interview, Ms. Felker said an additional 33,500 vehicles were being recalled outside the United States, almost all of them in Canada.
However, Ford is recalling only vehicles sold or registered in 20 salt-belt states and the District of Columbia.
They are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
That's called a regional recall, and some consumer advocates, like the Center for Auto Safety, have long complained that such recalls serve to save automakers money and might - in a mobile society - fail to repair some vehicles. Automakers have defended them as practical and safe.
Owners outside the salt-belt states who have a problem should contact their dealers for help, Ms. Felker said.
For owners whose minivans have been recalled, dealers will relocate the mounting bracket and repair and reinforce the area with the corrosion problem, Ms. Felker said, adding that Ford was convinced that the vehicles would still be safe in a crash.
Ford is not aware of any accidents or injuries related to the problem, she said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating the problem in December 2011.
Last April it upgraded the inquiry to an engineering analysis, noting that it appeared that a third-row fold-down seat "can experience severe corrosion and structural degradation at the seat anchor mechanism mounted to the rear wheel wells."
One consumer who was delighted to learn of the promised repair is Julie Miller of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., who owns a 2004 Freestar. In a recent article in the Automobiles section on how the safety agency often falls behind in investigations, Ms. Miller wondered how long the investigation of the Freestar would take.
The recall means that the engineering analysis of the Freestar and Monterey will be concluded within 12 months, meeting the agency's self-imposed goal.
On Wednesday, after being notified by a dealer of the recall, Ms. Miller said in an e-mail that she was "doing a happy dance."