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Kuga SUVs up in flames: Angry readers, Ford SA responds

2017-01-06 12:09

POSSIBLE ENGINE OVERHEATING: Ford South Africa has issued a statement regarding its Kuga 1.6-litre Ecoboost SUVs overheating and catching fire. Image: Supplied

Cape Town - In December 2016, Wheels24 reported on a video showing a Ford Kuga SUV up in flames in Durban.

The owner, Nivesh Sewpersadh, was driving in Westville North near Durban when his vehicle caught alight. Sewpersadh said he had taken his SUV to a dealership twice after the engine warning light appeared. 

He escaped from the vehicle without any harm before emergency services arrived. Since then, more Kuga owners have expressed their concerns and unhappiness after experiencing the same issues. 

Sudden overheating

Wheels24 readers, Mr & Mrs Samuel and Pat Keegan, experienced similar problems with their Kugas:

The Samuels emailed Wheels24 the following:

"We too own a Ford Kuga 1.6 Ecosport Titanium model, which was purchased from Barloworld in Pietermaritzburg in 2014.

"Earlier in 2016 the vehicle suddenly and without warning overheated. Fortunately, we were able to stop and switch it off immediately - albeit in the middle of rush-hour traffic.

READ: Ford SA responds to Kuga fire incident in Durban

"A number of visits were made to the dealer who eventually advised that there was possibly a factory problem with the water coolant bottle, which they then replaced under warranty.

"A few months later the vehicle engine light come on. It took a few trips to the dealer to investigate before they advised that the issue was "possibly" related to the replacement of the water bottle and it also seemed that coolant has been leaking out which, once again, they 'apparently' fixed.

"Upon reading about the Kuga's catching fire in social media, we immediately contacted the dealer and only then did they advise that they are conducting the safety checks for Ford SA on Kuga's and that we should bring in the vehicle.

"Considering that the water coolant bottle had already been replaced and that the coolant leak had apparently been fixed, imagine our shock to receive a call from the dealer advising that they found that our vehicle still had the same cooling system defect; possibly linked to the overheating issue, which may have resulted in the other Kuga's catching fire.

READ: Ford SA on Kuga fires: 'may be a result of engine overheating'

"This means that all along we had been driving an unsafe vehicle with our kids in it! Upon querying how this was not picked up during the previous repairs and also the previous services, no answers were given. When advised the dealer of our unhappiness and concern for our safety with this vehicle and the only option given by them was for us to trade in the vehicle if we no long wanted it.

"Not only are we concerned for our safety, but we will also likely not be able to resell this particular model in the future as these models are now associated with the fire issue. Asides from engaging with the dealer we have also sent an email to Ford SA who advised that a customer relationship representative would contact us, no one has yet contacted us."

Petition drawn up

In response to the latest spat of Kugas catching fire, a petition has been drawn up in an attempt to get answers from Ford South Africa.

Click on the image below:

One person killed in Kuga blaze

In 2015, 33-year-old Reshall Jimmy lost his life when his Ford Kuga caught fire whilst on holiday in Wilderness, South Coast. Since then, Jimmy's family has been seeking closure following his sudden and shocking tragedy.

The family's attorney said in a YouTube video (below) that an investigation into Jimmy's death is still underway and that the police and Ford's fire investigators are a part of that team. Preliminary reports indicate that the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction.

Ford South Africa is currently embroiled in a legal case with the police to obtain all reports on this incident.

Ford SA responds:

We are currently investigating reports of engine fires in Kugas equipped with the 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine in SA. While our investigations into the incidents are not complete at this time, we have found that the fires may be a result of engine overheating. We take the safety of our customers very seriously. Our decisions are driven by the data available, and when the data indicates action is needed, we move quickly on behalf of our customers. 

To help reduce the risk of engine overheating, just prior to the holiday period we advised affected customers to contact their Ford dealer to request a further check of the maintenance items, especially to check coolant system condition and integrity. Our initial contact with affected customers was through email, SMS and a social media campaign, and we are rapidly following up with letters to each customer. 

The dealer check is free of charge and will take approximately one hour to complete. Affected customers can also contact Ford Customer Service directly at 0860 011 022.

There are about 6300 1.6-litre Kugas built between December 15, 2012, and October 20, 2014, included in this action. Kugas with 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre engines are not affected by this dealer maintenance check, but we strongly recommend that customers of all Ford vehicles follow the regular maintenance checks stated in their Owner’s Manual.

It is still early days on the maintenance action, particularly given the seasonal holiday, so we aren’t able to give you a number of vehicles that have been checked at this stage.

We also have agreed with the National Consumer Commission that we will report back to them voluntarily by the end of February, and we will keep you updated on any developments.

'Is my daughter at risk?'

Pat Keegan: "We have been following the various news briefs regarding fires/overheating plaguing the Ford 1.6-litre Ecoboost engine. I'm particularly interested, as my daughter has a 2013 Kuga as a family car. It has proved to be an excellent vehicle, but naturally we are alarmed by recent events.

"About 6% of this model sold in SA has been reported as burnt out (so far). It's interesting that the 1.6-litre engine has been replaced by a smaller 1.5-litre unit. These fire/overheating problems are evidently not new to the 1.6-litre engine and a search of the web revealed problems in the USA from 2012 onwards, when this engine was launched in the Escape (Kuga) and other models.

"As this fire/overheating problem affects a high portion of the 1.6 Ecoboost engine, it is therefore a risk to the safety of occupants."

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