Ford CEO apologises for Kuga fires

March 7 2017 – CEO and president of Ford SA, Jeff Nemeth, apologised for losing the trust of consumers over the debacle of a number of Ford Kuga vehicles overheating and catching fire.

This was said at parliament on Tuesday, when the portfolio committee on Trade and Industry received a full status report on the recall from Ford SA, the department, the National Regulation for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) and the National Consumer Commission (NCC).

“I would like to apologise for giving our Ford customers a reason to question their trust in the Ford Motor Company,” said Nemeth.

“We uncharacteristically stumbled at various moments over these past months,” said Nemeth.

Approximately 15,000 Kuga sales have been recorded in South Africa after being introduced in 2013. However, since early last year there has been a steady increase in the number of cases of engine compartment fires of the 1.6 Kugas, which eventually forced a safety recall of just over 4, 500 Kugas in January of this year.

According to Nemeth, to date, 3,200 Kugas have been checked and 2,700 serviced and returned to their owners.

Nemeth said: “Part of the commitment to customer safety is our obligation to deliver an exceptional customer experience in those rare cases when a vehicle is involved in a recall.”

Addressing Ford customers, Nemeth said: “While we cannot press rewind, we can assure you that we can, we must and will do better to re-earn your trust.”

Although remorseful, Nemeth substantiated by saying: “Vehicle fires are rare but they do happen- according to the Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa in 2014 alone, there were 2,128 vehicle fires nationwide.”

“We also noted that these engine compartment fires, while damaging to the vehicles, led to no injuries of any kind, which remains true to this day.”

Ford SA disputes that the death of Reshall Jimmy, 33, is linked to the Kuga fires at the centre of the recall. Jimmy died after he was trapped in his 2014 Kuga which caught alight while he was on holiday in the Wilderness in the Western Cape in December 2015.

By December 2016, Ford was able to determine that the underlying issue being experienced by Kuga drivers was overheating due to a lack of coolant circulation. In January, Ford, in consultation with the NCC, announced a recall of the Kuga 1.6 litre vehicles in the market.

“There are many who believe that Ford did not do enough to communicate with our customers about this issue and we want to work to re-earn their trust,” added Nemeth.

Of the recalled vehicles, none had since experienced overheating issues related to the coolant system problem and none have caught fire, Nemeth said.

He further explained that a phase two recall would be rolled out in which a new device would be located in the engine to monitor coolant levels.  – ANA