KUGA SUVS ON FIRE: A screengrab shows a Ford Kuga on fire along the R43 close to Hermanus in the Western Cape. Image: YouTube
Cape Town - Ford South Africa is issuing a safety recall for Kuga models equipped with the 1.6-litre engine to address an engine overheating condition that could cause a fire.
The safety recall comes after more than 45 incidents of Ford Kuga units catching fire locally, leaving one person dead in 2016.
Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed announced the way forward with the Ford Kuga utility vehicle this afternoon in Pretoria at a National Consumer Commission briefing to the media.
Mohamed says: "The primary concern of the National Consumer Commission with the Ford Kuga matter is the safety and well-being of every consumer. A product poses any risk to our consumers does not have a place in our marketplace."
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According to the NCC, the organisation learnt through the media about consumer’s who have had life threatening experiences with the Ford Kuga vehicles during mid-December last year. The NCC immediately reacted to this and called Ford to a meeting to respond to the allegations that were sending shockwaves through society.
"What was puzzling then was that we did not receive any complaints from consumers about this," says Mohamed.
Arising from the meeting the NCC instructed Ford to implement precautionary measures that would avoid further incidences.
Mohamed continues: "However, over the past few weeks the NCC noted with concern that many more incidences took place, thus proving that our consumers were still exposed to the risk of harm.
"It is for this reason that the NCC requested an urgent meeting last week to inform Ford of our decision to authorize a safety recall of the vehicle on terms that will be dictated by the NCC."
READ: 'Ford should take it back and pay us out'- Angry Kuga owners respond
Ford SA responds
A total of 4556 vehicles are affected by this safety recall in South Africa, and were built between December, 2012 and February, 2014. Ford Kuga models with 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre engines are not affected, claims the automaker.
Ford SA says: "We have investigated the incidents as they have been reported to us, removing many parts for detailed examination in our engineering facilities in Europe and North America. The data collected from the recent incidents and the maintenance checks we are conducting through our dealers have helped us to determine the root cause of the fires.
What's the cause?
Ford says said: "While we continue to investigate the Kuga 1.6 engine compartment fires, based on the current data we have determined that the fires are due to engine overheating. This is caused by a lack of coolant circulation which can lead to a cracking in the cylinder head and, therefore, an oil leak. If the leaking oil reaches a hot engine surface, it can potentially catch fire. We are not aware of any injuries resulting from the engine compartment fires."
The automaker says with this safety recall, all affected vehicles, including those that have already been checked, must be taken to a Ford dealership as soon as possible. This safety recall comprises two stages.
Here's what Ford SA Kuga owners should do:
The first stage involves replacing affected components on the cooling system, verifying and updating the software and conducting an oil leak check on the cylinder head.
Ford claims if any Kuga 1.6 owner sees any indication that the engine may be overheating or experiences warnings on the instrument cluster, they should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, switch off the engine and ensure all occupants are safely out of the vehicle.
"For safety reasons, the bonnet must not be opened", says Ford. "The emergency services should be called first, if required, then Ford's Roadside Assistance on 0861 150 250. Supported through the AA, this service is available 24/7.
The automaker also says the 1.6 Kuga is safe to drive, provided the integrity of the cooling system is maintained, and this safety recall has been actioned.
Ford says: "The next stage will make the cooling system even more robust, and is likely to involve further changes to parts and warning systems. We are currently ensuring that the changes we make are complete and thoroughly tested - and will communicate with our customers as soon as this stage commences.
"Every effort is being made to minimize inconvenience, and reassure customers that their safety is our top priority.
"We are committed to keeping our customers mobile. Should a customer experience any engine overheating problem with their 1.6 Kuga, or delays in the repair due to a shortage of parts, arrangements will be made through the nearest Ford dealer and Ford Customer Service to provide a courtesy car while the vehicle is repaired."
Any customer concerns or queries can be directed to Ford Customer Service at 0860 011 022.