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Family of Kuga victim to bring class action lawsuit against Ford

2017-01-17 10:49

TAKEN TO TASK: Ford SA is receiving lots of flack over its Kuga catching fire. Image: QuickPic

Jeanette Chabalala, News24

Pretoria - The family of Reshall Jimmy, who died when his Ford Kuga burst into flames, will be pursuing a class action lawsuit against the vehicle manufacturer.

The family's lawyer, Rod Montano, announced the expected lawsuit during a briefing at the National Press Club on Tuesday (January 17, 2017).

Ford announced on Monday that it was recalling the vehicles.

In December 2015, the automaker released a statement after several Kugas caught fire.

It notified owners that it was investigating reports of engine fires in that model, and asked them to take their vehicle to their dealer for a maintenance check.

Still no closure

Ford has come up with excuses to protect their brand instead of giving the family closure, says a relative of Reshall Jimmy who died when his Ford Kuga caught fire in December 2015.

Reshall's brother, Kaveen Jimmy said on Monday following Ford's press briefing in Pretoria: "They have not being doing the right thing... all of the time and resources they spent [misleading] media and any educated person reading the bogus report, they could [have] spent finding what caused the actual fire."

Kaveen said his 33-year-old brother was visiting George in the Western Cape when the incident happened.

READ: #FordKuga: Twitter reacts to huge SUV recall in SA

He said on the evening of the incident his brother drove to his hotel and "less than a few kilometres from driving out, as he turned onto one of the main roads, his car burst into flames".

He said his brother was trapped in his car with his seat belt still secured.

"The family only found out four days later... we couldn't get hold of him, we thought he had taken some quiet time, and that is not a way anyone should lose their loved ones."

Brands must 'take every life seriously'

Jimmy said, noting that the company had chosen a public platform to offer its sympathies: "They [Ford] made no attempt to contact us. We really appreciate [president of Ford Motor Company of South Africa] Jeff Nemeth's condolences today [Monday]. Couldn't they do that two months after he passed away?” 

He said they were trying to ensure that brands such as Ford "take every life seriously".

READ: Ford SA's huge recall: Here's what Kuga owners should know

Kaveen said he believed half of the battle had been won.

He said: "Our main goal was to get the Kugas 1.6 in South Africa recalled so that the safety of South Africans can be protected. The next level of the battle is to get Ford to accept [and] to look at the evidence of what caused my brother's very senseless death and for us to get closure."

Their attorney Rod Montano said an inquest was being conducted into Jimmy's death.

He said the matter was currently under investigation with the George SAPS.


Thousands of Kugas to be recalled

Earlier on Monday Nemeth announced a huge recall of the Ford Kuga.

The SUVs in question have all been fitted with the automaker's 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine and the problem seems to be only with South African Kuga models.

A total of 4 556 Kuga 1.6l Ecoboost models produced between December 2012 and February 2014 will be recalled.

He said if any Kuga 1.6 owner sees any indication that the engine might be overheating or sees any warnings, they should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, switch off the engine and ensure all occupants are safe.

Nemeth said Ford appreciated the high level of concern and disappointment that has been expressed surrounding the issue.

"Ford is built on providing our customers with quality products and service. We have determined that the fires are due to overheating, caused by lack of cooling and circulation.

"We can confirm that a total of 39 incidents have been reported."

Increase of incidents

In December 2016, the automaker released a statement after a Kuga 1.6 EcoBoost SUV caught fire.

It notified owners that it was investigating reports of engine fires in that model and asked owners to take their vehicle to their dealer for a maintenance check.

National consumer commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed told reporters in Pretoria that a product that poses any risks to consumers does not have a place in the market.

He said in early December 2016 a member of staff had alerted the commission to incidences involving consumers who had had life threatening experiences with the Ford Kuga.

However the National Consumer Commission (NCC) had not received any complaints from individuals about the incident.

He said over the past few weeks the NCC had noted with concern that many more incidences had taken place and consumers were still at risk.

He said the issue had dragged on for far too long and they had approached Ford to conduct an investigation to find the actual cause of fires in the vehicles to enable them to repair or to replace the faulty components.

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