Johannesburg - From burning Kugas to easy access is the latest collision crisis between Ford Motor Company and clients reeling from having valuables stolen from their cars.
Hundreds of Ford drivers have recently complained about losing valuables after identical break-ins to their cars they blame on poor security features.
In the latest incident, Ford Fiesta owner Briony Simon this week circulated pictures on social media captioned: “Centurion Mall underground parking, all 3 of us hit on Friday night. Laptops, prescription glasses, bags, etc, stolen from our boots.”
Simon claimed Ford was aware of the problem but wanted to charge a minimum R5000 for each break-in.
In 2017, Ford was forced to recall more than 7000 Ford Kugas in South Africa after these models were mysteriously catching fire while in motion.
This time it is the locks of several Fiesta and EcoSport models that have been targeted by burglars. Owners claim the cars’ locks are easy to pick and have led to their valuables such as laptops and handbags being stolen in seconds from the cars.
Furious owners have taken to social media to give personal accounts of their ordeals and the fact that once the locks are picked, the alarm does not go off.
Disgruntled car owners have even started a Facebook group to share their stories called: “My Ford was broken into South Africa.” The group has nearly 5000 members.
One owner, Lethabo Mashishi, said she parked her car at Mall of Africa.
“I went there to buy groceries and when I came back after about two hours, I found that the car was broken into.”
Luckily, she said, there were no valuables in the car but the incident was unnerving. “The worst thing is that the alarm doesn’t go off when they open the car.”
Pearl Ndlazi’s Ford EcoSport was hit twice and she said she had lost faith in the brand.
“The last time I was at a mall I went in to a pharmacy for less than five minutes. When I came out I saw a man walk away from my car with my wallet.”
When she tried opening the car door, the key lock cover fell off. Her wallet and laptop were gone. A Ford Fiesta parked next to her was also broken into.
“When I went to Ford they said I could remove the two pins in the lock but if I do that then insurance won’t cover me any more. I was thinking of upgrading to a Ford Everest but would rather wait because it seems all their cars have problems,” Ndlazi said.
Joburg-based inventor Matthew Parker said he has been fixing the car locks for the past seven months. This year alone, Parker said, he had reinforced 200 Ford vehicles.
On Tuesday alone, he dealt with 12 people who needed their locks changed. He charges about R500 for the job.
The lock complies with the correct standards but the guys use a tool that puts stress on the lock. When they use that tool, all the locks open on the Ford and the alarm doesn’t go off. I don’t know why,” he said.
Parker said the problem occurs mostly in the Fiesta, Focus, Ranger and Figo.
“I have a special tool that takes the lock out and remove the two pins that are placed in the lock. Once you do that if they ever try to use that tool there is nothing to turn in the lock any more.
“They can’t break in. I then put a cover plate on so they can see the lock has been changed.”
Parker’s car has been modified in the same manner for the past 14 months.
Some of the posts on the Facebook page show people abandoning the Ford brand because of the break-ins.
Jonas Barausse wrote: “Found the perfect solution. All the best guys but this group has more than doubled in the three months since I joined.
“And having my boot cleaned out three times in six months (two of those times less than 24 hours apart) was all the sign I needed. Turns out Subaru and Mitsubishi don’t even feature on the stat lists for most stolen and hijacked cars in SA. Went with the latter. Really did love my Ford but it wasn’t worth it.”
Another user Liezel Booysen said: “My Daughter drives a Ford Ecosport Titanium. They broke into it last week Monday (April 8) in Pretoria. They stole everything out of the boot: laptop, study material, clothes. She is only 19 and this is her first car. She is heartbroken!”
Several owners who have complained to the company posted their responses on the Facebook page.
All seem to have received a standard response from the customer relations department stating that the company uses Level 4 locks as per the legal requirements.
“We appreciate that you have a higher expectation for this feature and in recognition of this we will raise this back to our design community to ask for their assistance to improve the design going forward.”
The letter continued that the complaint would be logged with the global design team.
Ford spokesperson Minesh Bhagaloo said customer’s safety and security was important to the company.
“Our team of security engineers and crime-prevention specialists continuously investigate ways that vehicles are being targeted, and with this information assess whether there are additional deterrence enhancements we can make to our vehicles in response.
“We can confirm that additional security solutions are currently being investigated for previous-generation Fiesta and EcoSport owners.”