Ford recalls Kuga - except it was destroyed by fire years ago
Durban man who now drives a Toyota is mightily puzzled by a recall notice to have his clutch fixed
Durban motorist and former Ford Kuga owner Nivesh Sewpersadh is very puzzled and at a loss for words.
When his luxury SUV was destroyed in a blaze caused by a cooling system design flaw in December 2016, he tried to get help from the global car manufacturer, but to no avail, he claims. But it turns out they knew where to find him after all, judging by the notice he received to bring in his Kuga “to have the clutch checked out”.
At the time of the incident on December 17 2016, Sewpersadh was on his way to the dealership in Pinetown after the warning lights came on. He then noticed smoke billowing from the exhaust, and flames from the engine licking at the windscreen.
Initially, he claims, he was moved from pillar to post, eventually handing over the matter and the wreck of his car to his insurers when he decided to walk away from the saga.
For 18 months he has been driving a Toyota Rav, making a clean break with a brand and model that has caused countless headaches for Kuga owners.
When Sewpersadh handed over the wreck to his insurers he was under the impression he would never have to deal with Ford again. But this proved to not be the case when a letter from Ford arrived last week, asking him to bring in his destroyed car in yet another safety recall because of a clutch problem.
It’s the fourth Kuga safety recall in just over a year.
The recall, which is global, is for a critical clutch problem where the clutch pressure plate cracks and fractures, damaging the gearbox and causing fluids to leak onto the exhaust system.
The problem, according to the recall notice, may cause the clutch assembly to overheat as a result of excessive clutch slippage, resulting in abnormal noise, odour, smoke and/or engine speed flare accompanied by a loss of power and potential damage to the transmission assembly.
“Damage to the transmission assembly could allow transmission fluid to leak onto the exhaust, which increases the risk of a fire,” the notice says.
The problem can be fixed with a “software calibration remedy that will detect excessive clutch slippage”.
Sewpersadh said the notice left him puzzled.
“In this day and age I cannot understand why Ford would post a letter about a safety recall, which seems pretty serious, to a customer. If you look at the date of the letter, it was posted to me at the beginning of July. It only reached me nearly eight weeks later. I hate to think what would have happened if I still had the car and the clutch failed while I was driving it.
“The second issue I have with Ford is over their record keeping. Given all the e-mails and telephone conversations I had with the company over my car, and the fact that I informed them that the vehicle was completely destroyed in the fire, you would expect them to have all of this information, or reference to it, on their books or database. You would think they would know that my car no longer exists.
“I am just glad that I do not drive a Ford any more,” he said.
Sewpersadh said he was contemplating writing to Ford and asking them to come and collect his “car” and see what happens.
“This whole saga is just totally ridiculous.”
Ford spokesperson Rella Bernades said the company, which kept records of every fire incident involving its vehicles that they had knowledge of, was investigating how and why Sewpersadh and other Kuga owners, whose vehicles had been destroyed in fires, were receiving the clutch recall notices.
The Kuga affected by the clutch recall were the 1.5 and 1.6l manual gearbox models built in Valencia, Spain between August 1 2011 and June 20 2016, she said.
Of the 17,000 Kugas sold in SA, 7,400 had been affected by the recall.
“The recall was launched on 20 March. Approximately 20% [of the 7,400 affected cars] have completed the recall action.”
Bernades said the recall was issued after Ford learnt that certain Kuga derivatives with manual gearboxes could suffer clutch pressure plate fractures.
“As a precautionary measure we directed affected customers to schedule an appointment with their dealers to have a diagnostic test completed. If any evidence of clutch slippage is found the clutch assembly will be replaced.
“Ford has released a software calibration remedy that will detect excessive clutch slippage and warn the driver to take their vehicle to their preferred Ford dealer. Ford is notifying customers to bring their vehicles in for the software update.”
Asked why the postal services were being used to contact customers, Bernardes said they used various means to contact owners.
“Depending on what contact details we have available for customers, we contact them via SMS, phone calls and e-mail. In addition, we send out registered letters for the sake of greater caution, especially in cases where no other forms of communication are available to make contact with affected customers.
“This is in compliance with consumer legislation and recall guidelines. Unfortunately, not all Kuga owners have advised us of their change of details.”
• In December 2015, Reshall Jimmy burnt to death in his Kuga when it caught fire while on holiday in Wilderness in the Southern Cape.
Since his death his family have been fighting to hold Ford to account with the police and the National Consumer Commission, which are investigating the fire.
While an inquest has been ordered into Jimmy’s death, it has yet to be held, with the commission yet to release its investigation findings.
The Jimmy family, who have roped in prosecutorial heavyweight Gerrie Nel to pressure the Justice Department to conduct the inquest, maintain the fire was caused by a faulty electrical system in the car. They believe faulty electrical systems are also behind some of the 83 Kugas that caught fire in the country between December 2015 and earlier this year.