Cer­tain mod­els of Fo­cus, Kuga, Tran­sit Con­nect and Tour­neo Con­nect have been flagged as pos­si­ble fire haz­ards, but Ford’s couch­ing an ef­fec­tive re­call in a more palat­able form

Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - If you need to have any of the re­call phases com­pleted, con­tact your dealer. Check on Ford SA’s web­site,­tomer/ re­call whether you are af­fected by the most re­cent re­call. For more in­for­ma­tion call Ford Cus­tomer Ser­vice at 0800 204 688 or

IS IT, or isn’t it an­other re­call? And can you take Ford at its word? That’s the ques­tion Ford cus­tomers are ask­ing af­ter re­ceiv­ing a no­ti­fi­ca­tion via reg­is­tered snail mail on Novem­ber 29.

An ea­gle-eyed Kam­raj In­ter­pal flagged the is­sue on Thurs­day, hav­ing re­trieved the let­ter once he’d re­turned from hol­i­days, stat­ing: “I re­ceived a cer­ti­fied let­ter that I had to pick up from the post of­fice re­gard­ing the re­pairs to my 2015 Ford Kuga 1.6.”

The note stated that both the clutch and up­per up­hol­stery in the car needed to be re­placed.

The let­ter read: “This is an ad­vance no­ti­fi­ca­tion that (Ford)… will shortly com­mence a Cus­tomer Ser­vice Ac­tion (CSA) on the clutch pres­sure plate of cer­tain ve­hi­cles.”

It then ex­plains the rea­sons: “In af­fected ve­hi­cles, the clutch as­sem­bly may over­heat as a re­sult of ag­gres­sive driv­ing habits and/or a worn clutch disc, re­sult­ing in ab­nor­mal noise, odor (sic), smoke, and/or en­gine speed flare ac­com­pa­nied by a loss of power.

“This may cause the clutch pres­sure plate to crack and even­tu­ally frac­ture, dam­ag­ing the trans­mis­sion as­sem­bly… (this would) al­low trans­mis­sion fluid to leak onto the ex­haust, which in­creases the risk of a fire.”

Men­tion­ing fire and Ford in the same sen­tence is nat­u­rally per­plex­ing.

But Mi­nesh Bha­ga­loo, a spokesper­son for Ford SA, de­nied it was a re­call, stat­ing it was, in fact, a “rou­tine CSA”.

He said that to­wards the mid­dle of last year Ford had learnt cer­tain de­riv­a­tives of Fo­cus, Kuga and Tran­sit Con­nect and Tour­neo Con­nect ve­hi­cles with man­ual gear­boxes could suf­fer a clutch pres­sure plate frac­ture.

“Safety is al­ways a top pri­or­ity and we are act­ing quickly to ad­dress this is­sue. As a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, we di­rected af­fected cus­tomers to sched­ule an ap­point­ment with their pre­ferred dealer in or­der to have a di­ag­nos­tic test com­pleted.

“If any ev­i­dence of clutch slip­page was found, the clutch as­sem­bly would have been re­placed,” Bha­ga­loo said, adding Ford has re­leased a soft­ware cal­i­bra­tion rem­edy that would de­tect ex­ces­sive clutch slip­page and warned the driver to take the ve­hi­cle to their dealer, dis­miss­ing it as a mere soft­ware up­date.

“We want to re­as­sure our cus­tomers that the af­fected ve­hi­cles re­main safe to drive. Any ac­tion car­ried out on af­fected ve­hi­cles will be free of charge. We re­main com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing our cus­tomers with safe and high qual­ity ve­hi­cles, ad­dress­ing po­ten­tial is­sues and re­spond­ing quickly for our cus­tomers.”

The note to In­ter­pal said Ford was “work­ing closely” with its sup­pli­ers to pro­duce parts for the re­pair, so once those be­came avail­able, they would no­tify af­fected cus­tomers to sched­ule a re­pair.

Re­shall Jimmy, the Ford Kuga vic­tim who burnt to death in his car, also ex­pe­ri­enced the en­gine speed flare, which caused his clutch to stick, his sis­ter Ren­isha told me.

On De­cem­ber 4, 2015, Jimmy, 33, died in Wilder­ness while on hol­i­day. A foren­sic re­port blamed faulty wiring be­hind the dash­board.

What fol­lowed was a les­son in how not to con­duct cri­sis man­age­ment.

Ford SA tried to blame the vic­tim, sug­gest­ing he had com­mit­ted sui­cide or died of a gun­shot wound; dis­puted how and where the fire started to avoid li­a­bil­ity; and de­nied the au­then­tic­ity of a video cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial me­dia show­ing the ve­hi­cle on fire, clearly burn­ing from the front.

Its then chief ex­ec­u­tive, Jeff Nemeth, even tried re­li­gion, invit­ing the fam­ily to a meet­ing with a Chris­tian arch­bishop. And, in yet an­other tone-deaf move, of­fered the Jimmy fam­ily an­other Ford to the value of R1 mil­lion, which was de­clined.

Ford was even­tu­ally forced to is­sue a re­call for the Ford Ku­gas be­cause the Na­tional Con­sumer Com­mis­sion gave it an ul­ti­ma­tum: do it, or else we will.

The com­pany’s re­call was lim­ited to the 1.6-litre Kuga built in Va­len­cia, Spain be­tween July 2012 and June 2014, but other Kuga mod­els have also caught fire, some of which were caused by elec­tri­cal prob­lems.

Once the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fire was com­plete‚ the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Author­ity re­fused to pros­e­cute the mat­ter, stat­ing there was no chance of a suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tion due to a “lack of ev­i­dence”.

In Septem­ber last year, the NPA de­clined the Jimmy fam­ily’s at­tempt to launch a pri­vate pros­e­cu­tion through AfriFo­rum, which would have been led by ad­vo­cate Ger­rie Nel. In­stead, it was re­ferred to a mag­is­trate for an in­quest.

The in­quest starts on Fe­bru­ary 4 in Cape Town. Nel, known as a tena­cious “bull­dog” in the court­room, will be lead­ing the in­quest along­side Rod Mon­tano, the Jimmy fam­ily’s at­tor­ney.

Since his death, at least 64 other Ku­gas have caught fire in the coun­try. And there have been nu­mer­ous re­calls since then: the first two were for faulty coolant sys­tems, which Ford said caused the ve­hi­cle’s cylin­der head to crack, which al­lowed oil to leak onto the hot en­gine and catch fire.

The next re­call – the third in eight months – re­lated to yet an­other fire haz­ard, in Au­gust 2017, for the Ku­gas’ front seat­belt in­su­la­tion, which could catch alight in a col­li­sion. That was an ur­gent re­call, af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing an is­sue with its front seat­belts.

Own­ers were alerted to the is­sue via e-mail, with the re­call no­tice stat­ing: “In the event of an im­pact which de­ploys the front seat­belt re­trac­tor’s pre-ten­sioner there is a pos­si­bil­ity that the in­su­la­tion ma­te­rial on the in­ner face of the lower ‘B’ pil­lar trim could be sub­jected to a con­cen­trated heat source that could ig­nite the in­su­la­tion ma­te­rial, re­sult­ing in fire.”

Ford said al­though the seat­belt and faulty coolant is­sues were un­re­lated, cus­tomers who were bring­ing their ve­hi­cles in for the sec­ond re­call (“phase two ac­tion”) would be able to bring their ve­hi­cles in to have both re­pairs done at the same time, killing two birds with one stone as it were. How con­ve­nient.

And yet, it used to be said, never buy a French car be­cause of its un­re­li­a­bil­ity. But while French man­u­fac­tur­ers have made vast strides in im­prov­ing qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity, Ford SA has done lit­tle to in­stil con­fi­dence in its prod­ucts.

For the Jimmy fam­ily, the in­quest will hope­fully put an end to the mat­ter. It has been a fight all the way: Ren­isha says the NCC didn’t get the re­sult it wanted from Ford, so re­ferred the mat­ter to the Con­sumer Tri­bunal, which is also send­ing one of its lawyers to the in­quest to as­sist the fam­ily.

If you were a Ford cus­tomer – whether in a Kuga, Ka, Fi­esta or any of its other mod­els – would you be happy with your pur­chase? Or would you want your money back?

Ford’s taken a huge rep­u­ta­tional knock and the pub­lic per­cep­tion – not only of its ve­hi­cles be­ing un­re­li­able and its “fixes” not be­ing ef­fec­tive, but also of be­ing an un­trust­wor­thy cor­po­rate bully.

Nemeth, who needed re­call­ing to the US in 2017 by Ford In­ter­na­tional, told the press at one stage: “I want to stress that with the first stage of the safety re­call com­pleted, and with proper main­te­nance of the coolant sys­tem, the 1.6 Kuga is safe to drive.” Since then there were phase two and three re­calls, and now this fourth one. For a range of Fords.

How many more re­calls will it take to make these cars less risky?

This is an ad­vance no­ti­fi­ca­tion that (Ford)…. Will shortly com­mence a Cus­tomer Ser­vice Ac­tion (CSA) on the clutch pres­sure plate of cer­tain ve­hi­cles A let­ter from Ford to Kam­raj In­ter­pal

| African News Agency (ANA) Archives

SOME Ford cus­tomers have been no­ti­fied that there may be a prob­lem with their ve­hi­cles and they should bring them in for what Ford is call­ing ‘Cus­tomer Ser­vice Ac­tion’.

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