New flurry of activity in Ford Kuga probe as cars continue to catch fire
At least nine Kugas, which underwent the safety recalls, have caught fire since December
An independent probe into scores of Ford Kuga SUV fires has been ramped up, with owners whose vehicles were destroyed in the blazes set to provide detailed statements to investigators from the National Consumer Commission this week.
Times Select has learnt that, for the past two weeks, investigators from the commission have been contacting Kuga fire victims across South Africa. The move comes as the commission, according to several Kuga owners, prepares to finalise its investigation into the fires.
The commission has, however, declined to comment in detail on its investigation saying Times Select was "misguided" in its understanding of its investigation.Those to be interviewed include owners whose vehicles were destroyed both before and after Ford was forced to conduct three safety recalls on their luxury SUV model since August 2017.Despite the recalls, which were forced by the commission, Kugas have continued to catch fire on South Africa's roads.
At least nine Kugas, which underwent the safety recalls, have caught fire since December.
Ford has been embroiled in a PR nightmare over the spontaneous combustion of its luxury SUV since the cars first began catching fire in 2015.
The campaign to get Ford to recall their vehicles has been driven by the Jimmy family whose brother, Reshall Jimmy, burnt to death in his Kuga in December 2015 while he was on holiday in the Western Cape.
Times Select has learnt that commission’s investigators will on Monday meet with police and private fire investigators who investigated the Jimmy fire.
According to documents and e-mails seen by Times Select, commission investigators are also to examine Jimmy’s car as well as obtain reports on Jimmy’s postmortem and interview the mortician who conducted his autopsy.
Jimmy’s sister, Renisha Jimmy, confirmed that the family had learnt that a team of investigators would meet with police investigating her brother’s death.“We understand that the commission has requested that all of those involved in the police investigation be present on Monday in George. That includes the doctors who performed the autopsy, the police investigating officer, the insurance fire investigation officer, police fire investigators and police photographers. It’s basically everyone involved in the case,” said Renisha.
She said that the commission had also asked that its investigators be granted access to Jimmy’s car so that they can examine it.
“We see this as a positive step because for a long time we have been wondering how the commission has been conducting its investigation as it has, up until now, only spoken to Ford, which left us very concerned,” said Renisha.
She said the family was desperate for closure and hoped the latest move by the commission would finally bring them closure.
Renisha said the family had learnt from their social media campaign websites that investigators had been meeting Kuga owners in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape.
Durban Kuga owner Sissy Mkhwanazi said she had been recently contacted by commission investigators who were looking into fires which had destroyed Kugas. She said the investigators would be meeting her on Tuesday, as well as with police and provincial Road Traffic Inspectorate officials who were investigating her car's fire.
“A commission investigator told me they were busy finalising their investigation and that they want to question me over how the fire, which destroyed my car, started. They also want to speak to me about when I took my car in for the safety recall and the documents which Ford provided me which stated that my car was 100% safe to drive.”
Durban motorist Nivesh Sewpersadh, whose Kuga burnt out in December 2016, said commission investigators had e-mailed him last week to set up a meeting with him.
“I will be meeting investigators on Wednesday. They have said that they are nearly complete with their investigation. They said that they need to speak to me in connection with all the issues that I had with my car leading up to the fire.
“They also want to see the police report into the fire, which totally destroyed my car.”
He said he was pleased that investigators had contacted him.
“I hope that Kuga owners, who have lost so much, can finally get justice.”
Yvonne Nagouran said that although her Kuga had not caught fire, commission investigators had asked to interview her because of all the problems she had experienced with her vehicle.“Ford has replaced my vehicle’s engine and gearbox and numerous other parts, but it still gives me trouble, especially with the electrics. Because of this, the investigators want to speak to me and inspect my car. I am so sick and tired of this. Ford devalued my car, which has only done 70,000km from R365,000 to R90,000. What has happened to us Kuga owners is completely unacceptable.”
Commission spokesperson Trevor Hattingh said they did not comment on speculation and that Times Select site had a “misguided understanding of what we are busy doing”.
Asked about the commission’s investigators preparing to meet with affected Kuga owners, Hattingh said: “The NCC will interview any person or organisation it deems relevant in the course of an investigation.”
He said questions on the number of Kugas which had burnt out since undergoing the safety recall was privileged.
On their investigators meeting with police investigating Jimmy’s death, Hattingh said: “We do not confirm or deny that we will meet with the police.”Hattingh confirmed that the commission’s investigation into the Kuga saga was at an advanced stage, but declined to comment further on it. On whether investigators would meet with Ford representatives after interviewing Kuga owners, he said they would engage with subjects of an investigation as and when necessary.
He declined to say whether Ford had co-operated with their investigators, “as this information is privileged”.
“We will draw conclusions at the end of all investigation processes.”
He also declined to say whether the investigations were being ramped up.