Ford SA re­calls 4 566 Ku­gas

Fires caused in 39 ve­hi­cles puts firm un­der se­vere pres­sure

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Roy Cokyane

UN­DER pres­sure from the Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion, Ford South Africa has launched a vol­un­tary safety re­call for 4 566 Kuga 1.6-litre mod­els to ad­dress an en­gine over­heat­ing problem that to date has caused fires in at least 39 of these Kuga mod­els.

Jeff Nemeth, the pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ford’s sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa re­gion, said yes­ter­day that it did not dis­close the cost im­pli­ca­tions of re­call pro­grammes and was fi­nal­is­ing the sec­ond phase of the re­pair.

“This is a re­spon­si­bil­ity we have to our cus­tomers and does not have any­thing to do with in­vest­ment de­ci­sions… in South Africa,” he said.

Asked about Ford’s ap­proach to cus­tomers who had lost faith in its ve­hi­cles, Nemeth said these were Ford’s cus­tomers “and we are go­ing to lis­ten to them”.

“We are go­ing to re­as­sure them that their ve­hi­cles are safe to drive with the safety ac­tion and en­sur­ing the in­tegrity of the cool­ing sys­tem.

“We would say ob­vi­ously that there is no rea­son to lose faith in your ve­hi­cles.

“How­ever, ev­ery Ford cus­tomer has our as­sur­ance that each in­di­vid­ual case will be dealt with on its own mer­its and that we will treat all our cus­tomers fairly,” he said.

Nemeth said any re­call was an im­por­tant is­sue for Ford and its cus­tomers.

The Kuga mod­els af­fected by the re­call were built be­tween De­cem­ber 2012 and Fe­bru­ary 2014. Ford Kuga mod­els with 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre en­gines are un­af­fected.

Ebrahim Mo­hamed, the com­mis­sioner of the Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion, said a mem­ber of the com­mis­sion’s staff had drawn at­ten­tion to news re­ports of con­sumers who had life-threat­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ences with Kuga ve­hi­cles.

He said the com­mis­sion called Ford to a meet­ing and in­structed it to im­ple­ment pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures that would avoid fur­ther in­ci­dents.

How­ever, Mo­hamed said the com­mis­sion had noted with con­cern over the past few weeks that many more such in­ci­dents had taken place, prov­ing con­sumers were still at risk of harm.

Ur­gent meet­ing

Mo­hamed said the com­mis­sion had re­quested an ur­gent meet­ing to in­form Ford of its de­ci­sion to au­tho­rise a safety re­call of the ve­hi­cle if Ford did not come up with an­other pro­posal. Ford then in­formed the com­mis­sion it was im­ple­ment­ing a re­call, he said.

Nemeth said that based on current data Ford had de­ter­mined that the fires were due to over­heat­ing caused by a lack of coolant in cir­cu­la­tion, which could lead to a crack­ing in the cylin­der head and there­fore an oil leak.

“If the leak­ing oil reaches a hot en­gine com­po­nent, it can po­ten­tially catch fire.”

Nemeth con­firmed that to date a to­tal of 39 com­part­ment fires in the Kuga 1.6 had been re­ported to Ford, but there might be in­ci­dents that had not yet been re­ported.

He said with this re­call, all af­fected ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing those that had been checked as part of a main­te­nance check, must be taken to a Ford dealer as soon as pos­si­ble.

The safety re­call com­prises two stages. The first in­volves re­plac­ing af­fected com­po­nents from the cool­ing sys­tem, ver­i­fy­ing and up­dat­ing soft­ware and con­duct­ing an oil leak check on the cylin­der head.

Nemeth said the next stage would make the cool­ing sys­tem even more ro­bust and was likely to in­volve fur­ther changes to parts and warn­ing sys­tems. “We are cur­rently en­sur­ing that the changes we make are com­plete and thor­oughly tested and will com­mu­ni­cate with our cus­tomers as soon as this stage com­mences.”

PHOTO: SIYASANGA MBAMBANI

The pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ford’s sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa re­gion, Jeff Nemeth (right), says Ford has de­ter­mined that the Ford Kuga fires are due to over­heat­ing caused by a lack of coolant in cir­cu­la­tion.

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