This photo taken on January 12 captures Warren Krog's 2013 Ford Kuga ablaze in Alberton.
Johannesburg - Ford SA has finally apologised for its lack of communication to warn its customers about the risk to the Kuga 1.6 model, which could overheat and catch alight despite knowing about many such cases.

On Friday, the company announced that the total number of Kuga SUVs stood at 4556.

Jeff Nemeth, Ford SA chief executive, acknowledged that Kugas built between December 2012 and February 2014 with a 1.6-litre engine were susceptible to overheating because of improper coolant circulation. This could cause a crack in a cylinder head and lead to engine fires.

Forty-five Kugas are known to have caught fire in the country.

“Whenever an incident raises concerns about one of our vehicles we treat it with the utmost seriousness,” Nemeth said in the statement.

He apologised for a lack of communication at the outset of the spate of fires.

Renisha Jimmy has been leading a campaign to rally victims and their families after her brother died when his Kuga caught fire in December 2015.

“Contrary to what the CEO has now said, these people are not happy,” she said, adding that Kuga owners have come to her with stories of poor customer service and issues persisting even after safety checks.

“There have been hundreds of people who have called us and asked us to help them because they don’t want these cars any more,” Jimmy said.

A class-action lawsuit is being planned, and about 100 additional Kuga owners would submit complaints to the National Consumer Commission on Monday, she said.

Ford SA is rolling out the recall in two stages, with the first including safety checks and replacing faulty parts.

“The next stage of the safety recall will improve the cooling system, making it even more robust and is likely to involve further changes to parts and warning systems,” the statement said.

While Ford SA could not give an exact number of vehicles that were brought back to dealerships, the company did say it had loaned out 4080 courtesy cars to affected customers.

Customers with concerns or question can call Ford SA on 0860011022 or email the company at [email protected]

Saturday Star