Three options for Kuga fire victims as Ford offers R50k settlement

By NORMAN CLOETE AND SHANICE NAIDOO Time of article published Nov 30, 2019

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Cape Town - ALMOST four years after the death of Reshall Jimmy, the Ford Kuga fire saga has seen some movement, but it could be far from over and it’s too late for the Jimmy family.

Ford clients will now have to mull over a decision to take the cash or pursue further action against the car manufacturer. Owners whose vehicles caught alight have been offered a choice of three options to pursue, or they could just take the money and “ride’’.

The National Consumer Commission (NCC) confirmed that a settlement had been reached with Ford Motor Company Southern Africa (FMCSA) regarding compensation for the victims. The company agreed to pay a settlement fine of R35 million after admitting responsibility for the fires, blamed on a faulty cooling system, which resulted in the recall of 4556 Kuga 1.6 EcoBoosts in January 2017. Acting NCC commissioner Thezi Mabuza said the Detroit-based carmaker had agreed to either pay each owner a one-off payment of R50000 or they could also pursue court action. Affected owners will also be allowed to claim against the company in terms of Section 61 of the Consumer Protection Act.

The commission received 160 complaints from consumers who alleged their rights had been infringed by FMCSA. In July 2017, Ford announced it had implemented Phase II of repairs to all EcoBoost-powered Kugas, which included the fitting of a new coolant expansion tank with monitoring software and warning indicators, software that reduces power when dropped coolant levels are detected and new cooling pipes that are also rerouted from the original design.

But the deal came too late for Jimmy, who died in his car in the Wilderness on December 4, 2015, while on holiday. An initial forensic report blamed faulty wiring behind the dashboard. At the time, the company was slammed for suggesting Jimmy had committed suicide or died of a gunshot wound and disputing how and where the fire started.

During the four years, the family decided to withdraw from the probe into what transpired. His sister Renisha said at the time that the family was satisfied with the inquest proceedings and had only wanted closure, following allegations that her brother had committed suicide or had been murdered.

AfriForum’s Gerrie Nel, who took on the legal case pro bono, said the Jimmys had been briefed on how the inquest would proceed and were “content therewith”, requesting to be excused from attending further.

Ford Motor Company has seen plenty of ups and downs since it started in 1903. The commission said although Ford was not found to have been negligent, the investigations revealed that the vehicle manufacturer engaged in prohibited conduct by distributing vehicles that failed or could have failed as a result of a cooling system failure. The failure of the cooling system rendered the vehicles unsuitable.

Kuga owners who believe that they are entitled to more than the one-off R50000 settlement will have to take their fight to the court. Owners will also be able to approach an internal tribunal of the NCC if they believe their claims for more than R50 000 could be successful. None of the affected parties was available for comment following the announcement.

Weekend Argus

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