Cape Town – Parliamentarians came out guns blazing at Ford Southern Africa for delaying to recall more than 4000 1.6-litre Ford Kugas when the vehicles started catching fire two years ago.

The handling of the death of a vehicle owner, Reshall Jimmy, also infuriated the parliamentarians who charged that there was no willingness to ensure his family had closure 15 months after his death.

The multinational company briefed the trade and industry portfolio committee on the recall of the 4556 Kugas. Ford Southern Africa president and chief executive officer Jeff Nemeth told the committee that they could not rush to recall without following due processes.

“There are those who believe Ford should have instituted the recall earlier. We have been working hard to remedy the shortcomings. We are making progress.”

Nemeth said of the vehicles recalled, there was no injury or death experienced as a result of car fires.

He also sought to clarify the incident around the death of Jimmy, saying the fire in his vehicle was unrelated and was still a subject of a probe by the police.

“There has not been a single injury or fatality as a result of the fires in Kugas. We continue to co-operate with the police to ensure that investigations of this matter are concluded.”

We stumbled, Ford admits

Nemeth, who maintained that Kuga was a safe vehicle to drive, acknowledged that it (Ford) did not live up to expectations.

“We uncharacteristically stumbled at various points in the last few months and while we cannot press rewind, we can assure you that we will, and we must, do better to re-earn that trust.” He also told the committee that out of the 4556 Kugas recalled in the country, 3200 were checked.

A total of 2800 were serviced and returned to owners and 359 customers had taken advantage of trade-in assistance.

The ANC’s Bongani Mkongi said the issue of diligence was a non-issue regardless of whether there was or was not not a single death or more. “The technicality for the programme to recall is an excuse.” He decried the pace of recall of vehicles in the US and South Africa, saying it was not the same. “The National Consumer Commission had to intervene and force a recall.” Mkongi also said it was important that Ford addressed the nation on Jimmy’s death.

“It is important you take this matter seriously and address it with the weight it deserves.” Nemeth said he had visited Jimmy’s family and that it had had no time to grieve and find closure.

He and Ford’s legal representative, Shibishi Maruatona, explained how they co-operated with the police and the processes that has been followed so far.

The DA’s Geordin Hill-Lewis said being transparent was always better and raised concern at the length of time it took Ford to be transparent.

Cape Times