Sabelo Cele and his wife watched as their Kuga burnt out. Picture: Facebook
Pretoria – The majority of families whose Ford Kuga SUVs burst into flames in South Africa in the past few months will be filing a class action lawsuit, their attorney announced on Tuesday.

"Initially I have been instructed by the Jimmy family," attorney Rod Mantono told a media briefing in Pretoria (Reshall Jimmy died in December 2015 after his Ford Kuga burst into flames).

"The initial goal was to assist in the investigation by the SAPS in George into the inquest relating to Reshall's death. As the matters progressed, with the epidemic of Ford fires that have occurred, we've come into contact with other Ford fire victims.

"I am also currently instructed to act on the other families behalf in bringing a class action against Ford."

He said 31 claims against Ford were handed to the National Consumer Commission on Monday.

"We are in the process of obtaining the remaining few victims," he added. "The difficulty we had over the December period was getting into contact with those persons. Consultations are ongoing and we do hope that we will act on behalf of all Ford Kuga fire victims."

He said the class action, targeted at Ford, would be pursued jointly through the NCC, as well as civil claims for the losses suffered in the fiasco.

Recall

Ford Southern Africa announced on Monday it was recalling the controversial Ford Kuga 1.6 SUV as part of a “safety recall” after about 40 incidents of the model igniting on South African roads.

Ford chief executive for the sub-Saharan Africa region, Jeff Nemeth, told a media briefing in Pretoria: "The Ford Kuga 1.6, manufactured between December 2012 to February 2014, must be taken to a Ford dealer as soon as possible.”

He said all the affected vehicles, including those that have already been checked “must be taken to a Ford dealer as soon as possible”.

Nemeth said the recall affected more than 4000 vehicles.

“We’re now announcing a voluntary safety recall for the affected Ford 1.6. Our investigations has enabled us to narrow the number from the originally stated 6,300 to a total of 4,556 affected vehicles.”

He said other Ford models and other Ford Kuga engine derivatives – the 1.5 and two-litre models – would not be effected. Nemeth said besides the Jimmy case which was still being investigated, his company was not aware of any injuries that have resulted from the engine compartment fires of the Ford Kuga 1.6.

Oil leak

“Based on the current data, we have determined the fires are due to overheating caused by lack of coolant circulation which can lead to a cracking of the cylinder head and therefore an oil leak. If the leaking oil reaches a hot engine component, it can potentially catch fire,” said Nemeth.

“We’ve seen various numbers circulating, however, today we can confirm that a total of 39 incidents have been reported to Ford.”

Jimmy, 33, was on holiday in the Wilderness when his vehicle caught fire. He was burnt beyond recognition.

African News Agency (ANA)

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