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Kuga fire victims plan to bring class-action lawsuit

Industry news
Johannesburg – “I think the reality is that I could have actually died,” Warren Krog said.

On Thursday, Krog was driving in Alberton when his Ford Kuga SUV began smoking. He was only a few kilometres from the nearest dealership, so he tried to make it there.

However, he was forced to pull over at the side of the road. “When I opened the hood, I could see fire at the back of the engine,” he said.

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A Ford Kuga goes up in flames on January 2. Picture: Supplied

By the time the fire department arrived to put out the fire, the front of his car was engulfed in flames.

Krog is the most recent victim of Kugas catching fire. Ford SA has yet to issue a recall, instead asking customers to take their vehicles to dealerships for safety checks.

Kaveen Jimmy’s brother, Reshall, died in December 2015 when his Kuga burst into flames. Jimmy and his sister have been running a campaign to gather the victims of Kuga fires. So far, they have found about 45 cases, nine this year alone.

Jimmy said they took about 30 of these cases to the Motor Industry Ombudsman on Friday, although representatives of the ombudsman were unavailable to immediately verify whether they had received the complaints.

According to Jimmy, the majority of those affected had agreed to bring a class-action lawsuit against Ford SA.

“We wanted closure, and we wanted to know Ford was taking the steps to make sure this doesn’t happen to another family,” Jimmy said.

Ford SA recently launched legal action of its own to obtain evidence from the SAPS related to the Jimmy investigation. 

On December 30, Ford SA submitted its intention to bring an urgent application to the High Court in Cape Town to force the SAPS to hand over copies of “all the information, documentation and evidence in their possession, including any video recordings” related to the Jimmy investigation. The application was to be officially filed on Wednesday.

The court documents included an affidavit from Shibishi Maruatona, a director and the general counsel of Ford SA. “The passing of the deceased, as well as the social media campaign by the family of the deceased, has led to 'a panic',” he said in the affidavit.

Maruatona claimed that Ford SA needed the evidence to assist with its own investigation. He went on to insinuate that “the circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased are mysterious” and the company was attempting to determine “whether there may have been outside forces and factors which caused or contributed towards the fire”.

“They made some statements in that report, which are grossly incorrect. And if anything, the best word for it is ‘perjury’,” Jimmy said.

Multiple sources said Ford SA was able to complete a full inspection of the burned vehicle on several occasions. The National Consumer Commission gave Ford SA until the end of February to finalise its report before the government will make a decision over whether to step in and force a recall.

Ford SA says the problem is contained to “Kugas equipped with the 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine in South Africa”, potentially to the 2013 model.

Krog said he hoped that his story would convince other owners to take their vehicles in for inspection and to protect themselves while driving. “If they see smoke, they should not even wait,” he said, adding that drivers should keep a fire extinguisher with them and something to break a window in case they needed to escape.

Representatives of Ford SA were not available for comment.

Saturday Star

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