The 2013 Ford Kuga owned by Warren Krog burns out in Alberton, Johannesburg. The South African unit of the Ford Motor Company is recalling 4 556 Kuga vehicles following several dozen reports of the car catching fire. Photo: Warren Krog/AP
Pretoria – South Africa’s consumer regulatory authority, the National Consumer Commission (NCC) said on Monday, that it was on the verge of sanctioning a recall of the problematic Ford Kuga 1.6 when Ford Southern Africa proposed to make a voluntary recall of the vehicles at a meeting last week, following around 40 incidents of the SUVs bursting into flames.

“The NCC requested an urgent meeting last week to inform Ford of our decision to authorise a safety recall of the vehicle in terms that would be determined by the NCC – if Ford had not come up with another proposal. The NCC can authorise a recall of any product if reasonable grounds exist that goods may be unsafe or if there is potential risk to the public,” National Consumer Commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed told reporters in Pretoria.

“We were then informed by Ford that they were implementing a recall, and we were presented with the strategy. There is no monetary value that can truly compensate for loss of life or permanent injury to any human being. The NCC believes recalling this vehicle is in the best interest of all consumers.”

Mohamed said the NCC had previously granted Ford an opportunity to conduct an investigation, to find the causes of the fire, to repair or replace the faulty components and to restore the value and quality of the cars in terms of the law.

“No brand is bigger than the law. We ask consumers to approach us when they have concerns with any products or services, to enable us to act quickly and effectively,” he said.

Jeff Nemeth, chief executive of Ford Motor Company’s sub-Saharan Africa region said the company was not aware of any injuries that have resulted from the engine compartment fires of the Ford Kuga 1.6.

“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 [from the cylinder head] 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. We’re now announcing a voluntary safety recall of the affected Kuga 1.6. Our investigation has enabled us to narrow the number from the originally stated 6 300 to a total of 4 556 affected vehicles.”

Nemeth said all the affected vehicles, including those that have already been checked “must be taken to a Ford dealer as soon as possible”. He said other Ford models and other Ford Kuga engine derivatives – the 1.5 and 2 litre models – would not be effected. 

After the media briefing, the family of Reshall Jimmy, who died after his Ford Kuga burst into flames in December 2015, slammed the car manufacturer’s handling of the fiasco around the faulty vehicles.

“They [Ford] didn’t give us answers. They made no attempts to contact us. We really appreciate [Ford chief executive for the sub-Saharan Africa region] Jeff Nemeth’s condolences today but couldn’t they do that two months after he passed away? They waited for a public forum to do that,” said Reshall’s brother, Kaveen.

“That is very insensitive. Now I think 50 percent of the battle has been won, because part of our goal was to get the Kuga 1.6 recalled so that the safety of South Africans can be protected. We hope we are there.”

He said “the next level of the battle is to get Ford to look at what caused my brother’s death”.

“It was a very senseless death. We need to get closure,” said Kaveen, who was accompanied by his sister Renisha and their attorney Rod Montano.

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

Around 40 other incidents of the SUV igniting on South African roads were reported, sparking public outrage.