Durban – After Ford South Africa urged worried Kuga drivers to book their vehicles in for free maintenance checks, three more vehicles have exploded in the past three days.
The first was gutted in East London on New Year’s Eve, the second in Vryburg and the third on the N1 in Brakpan on Monday morning.
Ford SA spokesman Minesh Bhagaloo said the manufacturer was investigating reports of engine fires in Kuga vehicles equipped with the 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine.
Owners of this model were urged to contact their Ford dealer to book a free one-hour maintenance check.
Asked why Ford SA had not recalled the model, Bhagaloo said: “Our decisions are driven by the data available, and when the data indicates action is needed, we move quickly on behalf of our customers.
“We also have agreed with the National Consumer Commission that we will report back to them voluntarily by the end of February, and we will keep you updated on any developments,” he said.
East London resident Maria Whitebooi-Daniels used Facebook to recount the moments leading to her car’s explosion on New Year’s Eve.
She said the incident happened despite assurances from a salesperson when she bought the car just a few weeks ago. She said she was told the fires affecting this model were “caused by people modifying their vehicles with gadgets that are not approved by Ford”.
“After I purchased the car I had numerous problems. Then I discovered one evening that the car was just dead, not starting,” Whitebooi-Daniels added.
She said she contacted Ford for assistance.
“The assistant who came... found that the battery was faulty and they replaced it with a new one.
“I also asked them to do a safety check as I was planning to go on holiday. They then took my car in on the same day of the battery replacement – December 29,” she said.
Whitebooi-Daniels said the car was returned a few hours later, with the assurance it was only the battery that was faulty.
“The car caught alight in front at the engine compartment and the car just shut down.
“Everybody got out of the car just in time. My boyfriend managed to kill the flames as it was in a residential area and close to a filling station,” Whitebooi-Daniels said.
She said the incident had left her “traumatised, struggling to sleep, and emotionally and psychologically scarred”.
A day later, another Kuga was severely damaged when it exploded while parked outside a Vryburg, North West, supermarket.
Owner Corné de Bruin said on Monday he was alerted by the store’s management.
“I was in the shop when I was alerted via the intercom, and when I got to the shop’s office, I was told that the car was burning,” he said.
De Bruin said he had heard of stories of the model being faulty but had not paid much attention to them.
“Because we’ve heard of this Kuga problem and I’d seen the letter from Ford a few days ago, I was going to take the car to Ford this week for the one-hour inspection. But that hasn’t happened,” he said.
Ford had given him a courtesy car while the damage was being investigated by the manufacturer, he added.
Meanwhile, footage was sent to our sister paper, The Star, showing another Kuga on fire yesterday morning along the N1 in Brakpan.