The siblings of Reshall Jimmy, who burnt to death in his Ford Kuga 1.6 in December 2015, told a packed media briefing on Tuesday that Ford SA’s safety recall announced on Monday was too little too late.
Ford SA CEO Jeff Nemeth on Monday announced the recall of 4 556 Ford Kuga 1.6 vehicles manufactured in Spain between December 2012 and February 2014. Owners of such vehicles were requested to take their vehicles to the nearest Ford dealer for an inspection and the replacement of certain components, to address an overheating problem that allegedly led to 47 vehicles bursting into flames.
Ford took the action only after the National Consumer Commission (NCC) threatened to order a safety recall in terms of the National Consumer Protection Act unless Ford did so voluntarily.
Reshall’s brother Kaveen told the briefing, hosted by the National Press Club, that the reasons for the recall are almost the same as those for a recall of similar vehicles in the US as early as 2011. He asked why Ford failed to take steps in South Africa earlier but left customers to address the issue with their insurers.
“It was only after the death (of my brother) that things got out of control for Ford,” Jimmy said and added that even then the manufacturer pointed in all directions, except at itself.
He said South Africa couldn’t be less important than the US. “Several recalls were done in the US. There were more fires here, but until now no recall,” he said.
His sister Rinesha Jimmy said the safety recall is in reality not more than the recall Ford did in December for safety inspections. She said that is disappointing. “These vehicles should be taken off the road. South Africans don’t feel safe in them. Ford must take responsibility,” she said.
Nemeth on Monday gave the assurance that the vehicles are safe to drive after the repairs that will be done as part of the recall, but nevertheless advised drivers to immediately pull over and get out of their vehicles at the first sign of smoke.
The Jimmy family have instructed attorney Rod Montano to assist the South African Police Service with the inquest investigation and to act on their behalf. They have established the Facebook page called ‘Ford vehicles burning’ to create awareness and through the page have made contact with other victims.
Montano is now also representing other victims and has handed over 31 complaints of Ford Kuga vehicles igniting to the NCC.
Montano said he is currently working through every case in preparation of a future class action against Ford. The work includes quantifying the damages in each case, which he said might include additional costs such as renting a replacement vehicle and increased insurance cost. He said in the case of the death of Reshall Jimmy it would be considerably higher.
Forensic investigator Dr David Klatzow, who investigated the issues surrounding Jimmy’s death on behalf of the family, accused Ford of “shopping around” for an investigation report that favours its case.
He said Ford ignored an earlier report that found that the fire in Jimmy’s vehicle started in the compartment under the dashboard. Instead it relies on a report that found that the fire started in the boot, which gives Ford a basis for its argument that Jimmy’s death was “unrelated and unique”.
Moneyweb saw a copy of the Ford report, prepared by US design analysis engineer James J Engle, who is also a Ford employee.
Engle in his report excludes the possibility that the fire started in the front of the vehicle. He further states that his is a preliminary report and that he needs to be provided with all the evidence before he can come to a final conclusion.
Klatzow said Ford’s position that the fire started at the back does not correspond with eyewitness reports or a video of the event.
Kaveen Jimmy accused Ford of not being forthcoming with the service records of his brother’s vehicle. He pleaded with Ford to allow the family closure around Reshall’s death by accepting the cause of the fire and preventing harm to other Ford Kuga owners.
“Stop making a mockery of my brother’s death,” he said.
He added that most Kuga owners are stuck with vehicles they cannot sell or afford to replace, but fear to use. “The trust in Ford has been severed with these customers,” he said.