Pretoria – Ford is finally recalling its 1.6-litre Kuga SUVs in SA following a spate of engine fires that have left owners afraid and fuming.
At a press briefing hosted by the National Consumer Commission, Ford SA CEO Jeff Nemeth said that while the company continues to investigate the numerous engine fires, current data has led the company to believe that the fires started as a result of oil leaks caused by engine overheating.
The chain of events, according to Ford, starts with a lack of engine coolant circulation causing the engine to overheat, which can then lead to a crack in the cylinder head, after which oil can leak out onto hot engine components and start a fire.
While original reports indicated that 6300 vehicles were affected, Ford’s investigation has narrowed that number down to 4556 1.6-litre EcoBoost models that were built between December 2012 and February 2014.
Nemeth urged affected customers to take their vehicles to a dealer as soon as possible, and this includes those that have already been ‘checked’.
The recall, which Ford refers to as “voluntary”, will take place in two stages. The first sees the replacing affected components in the cooling system, verifying and updating the software and conducting an oil leak check on the cylinder head.
The second phase of the recall, which Ford promises to announce in due course, will make the cooling system even more robust, Nemeth said, and will likely involve further parts changes and warning systems.
Should customers experience over-heating in the interim, Ford has promised to assist with a courtesy car while the vehicle is being repaired. The same applies to customers whose vehicles have burned out, although in terms of compensation for the damaged or destroyed vehicles, Nemeth stated that would be "a private matter between the customer and the insurance company."
At least 46 1.6-litre turbo-charged Ford Kugas are known to have caught fire in South Africa, two in the past week alone. Nemeth said that Ford wasn't aware of any injuries that had occurred as a result of the engine fires. But then what about Reshall Jimmy, who was killed after being trapped in his burning Kuga in December 2015? Nemeth expressed his condolences to the family, who were present at the briefing, but said that all investigating parties had ruled out an engine fire as the cause in that particular case.
Reshall’s sister Renisha launched a campaign to raise awareness, including the creation of a Facebook page called Ford Vehicles Burning, aimed at tracking down victims of the reported fault. Jimmy also said that the majority of Kuga owners who had been affected had agreed to bring a class-action lawsuit against Ford SA.
Back in December, Ford SA asked Kuga owners to take their vehicles to their nearest Ford dealer for a safety inspection. However, one owner said his car burnt out just days after taking his vehicle for an inspection. They had assured him that his car would be fine as long as the coolant level was correct.
Ford says that if any Kuga 1.6 owner sees any indication that the engine may be overheating or experiences warnings on the instrument cluster, they should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, switch off the engine and ensure all occupants are safely out of the vehicle. For safety reasons, the bonnet must not be opened.
The emergency services should be called first, if required, then Ford's Roadside Assistance on 0861 150 250. Supported through the AA, this service is available 24/7.
What is your take on Ford's handling of the Kuga situation? E-mail us at: [email protected] with 'Kuga' in the subject line.
I'll buy meat. Just bring your #FordKuga
Ford is doing damage control rather than taking responsibility, denying any wrongdoing and possibility of reimbursement – #FordKuga
Listening to the #FordKuga media briefing while traveling. Ford can't shift things to insurance companies. What about uninsured cars?
#FordKuga what about those who simply don't want a Kuga anymore? Ford sold defective product – reimburse.
The Ford SA CEO is so detached and uninterested.Basically saying if your car is burned,sort it out with insurance,don't involve us #FordKuga
#FordKuga: Press conference:I have a feeling that the Ford people are not really taking responsibility for their mess.