DEEP DISCUSSIONS: Ford SA is defending itself following a spate of Kuga SUVs catching fire. Image: QuickPic
Cape Town - The National Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry is in talks with Ford South Africa to discuss the automaker's handling of its Kuga SUV recall. Earlier in 2016, the automaker issued a recall of its Kuga following reports of the popular SUVs catching fire in SA.
A total of 4556 1.6-litre Ford Kugas, built from December 2012 to February 2014, are affected by the safety recall in South Africa. Ford SA says 63% of affected 1.6-litre Kuga SUVs have been repaired and returned to their owners.
Why investigate Ford?
The Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa will be thoroughly investigated following complaints laid at the National Consumer Commission (NCC), said Ebrahim Mohamed, Commissioner. Ford, the NCC and the motor industry ombudsman briefed MPs of the portfolio committee on trade and industry on Tuesday on the catching fire of Ford Kugas and the subsequent recall of the vehicles.
Ford could be fined 10% of its annual turnover if found guilty.
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He said: "As of February 8, the Commission received 45 complaints from consumers whom had suffered losses as a result of combustion of their cars or damage due to overheating. The complainants alleged that their rights had been violated. The NCC recommends an investigation into Ford Motor Company of SA, as there were allegations levelled against the company of contraventions of the Consumer Protection Act.
"The issues raised by consumers were beyond the scope of the product safety recall therefore there's a need for an investigation."
Kuga recall in SA
Since January the commission has received 134 complaints about Kugas, including about electrical faults.
Ford CEO Jeff Nemeth told MPs that the automaker changed the coolant bottle and pipes, changing the manner in which the water flows back into the coolant bottle.
He said the problem that caused the recall of the Kuga is that once the bottle has cracked the coolant leaked out. The engine then overheats causing the cylinder head to crack. Oil then leaks out on to the exhaust system which caused the fire.
Ford CEO Jeff Nemeth told members of parliament that of the 4556 affected Kugas 3200 have been checked; 2700 serviced and returned to owners, 73% fixed or in the process of being serviced, 1300 remain in the market to complete and 359 customers have utilised the trade-in assistance.
He noted: "Ford is not an insurance company and part of the remediation (for recalled vehicles) would be for insurance companies. I do believe however we could have listened better to those customers and have been more helpful. There are a few motorists who don’t have the finance to buy another vehicle and those customers don’t have insurance and and we provided them with transportation until we have made a decision."
Reshall Jimmy's death: 'an unrelated incident'
Nemeth denied that the death of 33-year-old Reshall Jimmy who died after being trapped inside his burning 2014 Ford Kuga SUV was due to the same overheating system that had led to the recall of a number of Ford Kugas.
Nemeth said: "The fire in his vehicle was caused by a different issue and it was an unrelated incident. There hasn't been a single injury or fatality linked with the recalled Ford Kugas."
Nemeth said major efforts have been under way within the last few weeks to regain the public's trust, such as the offering of a premium care plan "showing appreciation to all Kuga owners with a six-year or 200 000km coverage plan. "This demonstrates our confidence in the Kuga," he said.
READ: Another Ford Kuga recall - More than 800 SUVs affected by brake issue