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‘The death could have been prevented’ – another Ford Kuga owner

Ford was warned of vehicle fire three months before Jimmy’s death, says Sean Thompson.

Ford Kuga owner Sean Thompson of Vanderbijlpark says the death of Reshall Jimmy in December 2015 could have been prevented if Ford SA took the fire in his (Thompson’s) car in September of that year seriously.

Ford CEO Jeff Nemeth on Monday announced a safety recall of 4 556 Ford Kuga 1.6 vehicles manufactured in Spain between December 2012 and February 2014. This follows pressure from the National Consumer Commission for the manufacturer to act after almost 50 of the vehicles allegedly ignited due to overheating.

Jimmy burnt to death after his Ford Kuga caught fire and bystanders were unable to save him. Nemeth on Monday maintained that the fire in Jimmy’s vehicle was “unrelated and unique” and according to Ford’s investigator started in the car’s boot.

The family differ sharply after their investigators found that it started in the front, under the dashboard.

Thompson on Tuesday told Moneyweb that he locked his Kuga in his garage for the night on the fateful evening in September 2015. Later that night he got a call from his tracking company, telling him to see what is going on with his vehicle, since the battery was running down.

He went to look and found the cabin filled with smoke. He couldn’t get the doors open, but managed to open the bonnet and disconnect the battery. After that he was able to open one of the doors. The carpets were still hot to the touch, but he managed to extinguish the fire.

The next morning he contacted Ford who took the vehicle, but returned it after three weeks, none the wiser about the cause of the incident. Ford did not accept any responsibility since he took the car to a non-Ford workshop for its previous service Thompson says.

At that stage the car was two years old and had 132 000km on the clock.

His insurer refused to pay the claim, blaming it on bad workmanship from Ford, he says. He had it repaired at a cost of R35 000.

The auto electrician identified the cause of the incident as the cable loop beneath the electric seat switch, which was overstretched when the seat was in the lowest position, had chafed through and caused a short circuit.

He says the auto electrician told him the Kuga’s “electrical system is still alive” even when the vehicle is switched off. “There is still current running all over,” he says, calling his Kuga “a sitting bomb”.

Thompson says he emailed Ford about the cause of the incident and asked them to warn other owners and inspect the electric seats, because “someone is going to die”.

He says he got no response. The email is included in the complaint he has now lodged with the Consumer Commission.

Thompson points out that his vehicle is a 2.5 model. He differs from Ford,  which maintains only the 1.6 models are affected.

He further argues that like his vehicle, Jimmy’s could have suffered from an electrical fault that caused the fire while he was driving.

He says the problem with Jimmy’s vehicle was not an isolated incident as Ford maintains.

“Ford had my car before Jimmy died. They did nothing about it.” Jimmy’s death, he says, could have been prevented.

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Ford does not take consumer safety seriously.

This was the same company that designed the infamous Ford Pinto, where the fuel tank was badly placed – even though Ford’s own engineers knew at the time this was not the safest position. Many people were horrifically burnt to death as a result.

See https://philosophia.uncg.edu/phi361-metivier/module-2-why-does-business-need-ethics/case-the-ford-pinto/

If this happened in Japan, the company president would have resigned (and very swiftly too!) as a matter of personal honour over customer deaths.

No such luck in SA!

Hope the courts make an example of Ford, and don’t allow them to conveniently fob this off on some scapegoat junior underling.

The shocking foot-dragging by Ford in taking resolute action when it was required appears to indicate a systemic executive attitude problem at Ford. Accordingly, the courts should personally charge the CEO and senior Engineering and QA executives, and throw the book at them (and the key away if they are found guilty!).

Ford’s actions are a disgrace. Obviously the CEO will “duck and dive”…. that’s standard practice in SA, learned from Zupta783 & Co.
I once had an experience with a new Ford Cortina (company car). The heating system failed after six months due to the on/off valve clogging up and not allowing hot water to circulate to the heater under the dashboard. At my first (free) service, the mechanic told me about the problem, replaced the valve but informed me that it would probably clog up again and that it was a standard problem in all Cortinas. Three years later, I replaced the car with another new Ford Cortina. Guess what …. the same problem arose after twelve months. Ford SA don’t bother with these details. The strategy is to sell cars at all costs.

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