Ford on Monday announced the safety recall of 4 556 Ford Kuga 1.6-litre vehicles, manufactured in Valencia, Spain between December 2012 and February 2014 and imported to South Africa, due to a risk of overheating and fire.
This follows after at least 47 such vehicles caught fire, allegedly due to the overheating problem. This includes the vehicle in which Reshall Jimmy burnt to death in December 2015, although Ford maintains this was an “unrelated and unique event”.
Ford announced the “voluntary recall” only after the National Consumer Commission threatened to order a recall in terms of the National Consumer Protection Act.
Nemeth called on the owners of the affected vehicles to take them to their nearest dealers where they will be inspected and fitted with replacement parts. He said Ford would supply such owners with courtesy vehicles as long as the repairs are being done.
After questioned by the media, he confirmed that such owners would be required to pay a deposit of R1 500 “for fuel and toll fees”. He then added that Ford would waive the fee on the understanding that the customer remains liable for the costs.
This would be the “first phase” of the recall and would be followed later by a second phase and further component replacements and attention to warning systems. The detail of the second phase is still being finalised, he said.
Asked about measures regarding vehicles that have burnt out or incurred fire damage, Nemeth said that is between the owners and their insurance. He said in such instances Ford supplied the owners with courtesy vehicles and “hopefully we will get them back into another Ford vehicle”.
When challenged about vehicles that were not insured, or where the claims were rejected due to mechanical faults, and why insurers should carry the cost of what seems to be a manufacturers fault, he said: We will work with our customers and the insurers as we always do on a case by case basis”.
Nemeth confirmed reports that insurance companies notified Ford at several occasions during the course of last year of the vehicle’s fire hazard. He however denied that Ford was slow to respond. He said Ford worked round the clock to gather data about the incidents and shipped 15 engines to the US and Europe for evaluation.
Nemeth said Ford has already sent emails and SMSs to Kuga owners as part of its earlier recall to perform a safety check on the vehicles. The company will repeat this and follow up with registered letters informing affected Ford Kuga owners of the safety recall. The company will keep track of the response and intensify measures to find owners who do not respond. Working with the Consumer Commission it would also have access to government records of vehicle ownership.
Deputy consumer commissioner Thezi Mabuza said the Commission would require Ford to report to it on progress with the recall every second week and will communicate that to the public.
The National Press Club is hosting a media briefing by Jimmy’s siblings and attorney Rod Montana who represents the majority of the victims. They attended the Ford briefing on Monday and his sister Rinesha Jimmy expressed her disappointment the the vehicles were not permanently recalled. “They need to be taken off the road. We don’t want another family to go through what happened to us,” she said.