Tshwane – The Ford Kuga SUV in which Jimmy Reshall was killed after it ignited in December 2015, had been experiencing a range of technical problems, his brother Kaveen said on Tuesday.
"The first issue he had with this vehicle was with regards to his brakes. The challenge there was his brakes going out unusually fast. He consulted me for advice on that and I told him to buy new brakes – it's a faster way of getting it done," Kaveen told reporters at a media briefing in Pretoria.
"He kept having power issues with his vehicle. I sat in his car with him. When he was driving, it just lost all power. It happened so much to a point where, when he was driving, the vehicle just burst forward and he said this is what happens to my car. It loses power ... [and after a while] everything just kicks in."
Kaveen recounted another incident when Reshall's car was found idling after he had parked it at his workplace, but it had been switched off with no key in the ignition.
"It was switched on. He thought this was a joke from his friends so [when he was told] he went down laughing. When he went down to his vehicle it was locked but switched on," said Kaveen.
"The week before he went to George, he took his vehicle to Ford for a service check and he asked them to look into the vehicle because of the power issues. He was concerned that it was not safe and we were going to drive quite far. They told him his vehicle was safe and it was good to go."
Kaveen said shortly after Reshall's death, Ford officials claimed that there was no trail of the service history records on the ill-fated vehicle.
"Later in a meeting with [attorney] Rod Montano, we uncovered that the service records were still intact on their system. This was some eight months later."
It also emerged on Tuesday that 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 [Reshall] family. 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,” Mantano told a media briefing in Pretoria.
“I am also currently instructed to act on the other families behalf in bringing a class action against Ford.”
He said on Monday, 31 claims against Ford were handed to the National Consumer Commission (NCC).
“We are in the process of obtaining [the names of] the remaining few victims. The difficulty we had over the December period is 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,” said Montano.
He said the class action, targeted at Ford, will be pursued jointly through the NCC, as well as civil claims for the losses suffered in the fiasco.
On Monday, Ford Southern Africa announced that it was recalling the controversial Ford Kuga 1.6 SUV as part of a “safety recall” after there were some 40 cases of the vehicle igniting on South African roads.
“The Ford Kuga 1.6, manufactured between December 2012 to February 2014, must be taken to a Ford dealer as soon as possible,” Ford chief executive for the sub-Saharan Africa region, Jeff Nemeth, told a media briefing in Pretoria.
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 4,000 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 2 litre models – would not be affected.
Nemeth said besides the Jimmy case which is still being probed, his 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.”
Reshall, 33, was on holiday in 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.