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Ford SA, Consumer Commission under fire over Kuga

Mar 07 2017 15:24
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town – Ford South Africa and the National Consumer Commission received a tongue-lashing from Parliament on Tuesday about the way in which the recall of the carmaker’s Kuga SUV was handled.

Ford, the NCC and the Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa briefed members of parliament on following reports of the SUVs catching fire in South Africa.

MPs were not satisfied with Ford’s explanation that the engine compartment fires that occurred in the Kuga 'while damaging to the vehicles, led to no injuries of any kind'.

Ford CEO Jeff Nemeth said vehicle fires are rare, citing statistics from the Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa in 2014 on any average day about six vehicles in South Africa will experience a fire of some kind.

“These fires will happen to old cars and relatively new cars; they will happen to expensive cars and inexpensive cars; they will happen to cars of all makes and models; and they will happen for a vast array of underlying reasons,” Nemeth said.

He added that an 'incorrect connection' has been made between in the media and in social media between the recall of the Ford Kuga and the death of Reshall Jimmy.

Jimmy, a 33-year old, died in 2014 when trapped in his Ford Kuga.

During question time, ANC MP Bongani Mkongi said it’s not an issue whether a single person is dead as a result of the engines catching fire.

READ: Ford SA to parliament: 'We could have listened better to those customers'

'Must we wait for a hundred to die before we open our eyes? If we see more than five cars burning, why are we not intervening?'

DA MP Dean McPherson added that although Jimmy’s death is a separate matter from the faulty cooling system in the Ford Kuga, the matter could have been treated in a much more upfront and honest way.

He also climbed into the NCC for being 'slow to act' when the reports of the Ford Kuga emerged. 'You didn’t confront the problem head-on. It’s a disgrace and it’s shameful,' he said to Ebrahim Mohamed, NCC Commissioner who was also in attendance.

'You should take a long, hard look at how you conduct yourself when South Africans are in trouble.'

The NCC’s Mohamed responded, saying the Commission became aware of the Kuga issue in December last year and was proactive. “We called for a meeting with Ford – not because of a single complaint, but because of proactive work done by us.”

Johan van Vreden, motor industry ombudsman of South Africa, said being an ombud is a 'thankless thing to be'.

“You can only be reactive. To date my office hasn’t had one single complaint about the Ford Kuga.”

He added that a burning vehicle is something 'spectacular'. 'But there are more urgent issues, such as failed brakes in a vehicle.'

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