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It took 39 fires before Ford recalled exploding SUVs in South Africa. In the US, it took 0

Ford recalls exploding Kuga SUV in South Africa
AP Photo/Warren Krog
A moving health hazard.
  • Lynsey Chutel
By Lynsey Chutel


Published This article is more than 2 years old.

At least 39 Ford vehicles caught fire before the American car manufacturer finally agreed to recall the 2014 Kuga model in South Africa in January this year. In the United States, Ford recalled a similar model with the same fire risks before any injuries occurred.

For months, pictures and videos of the SUV catching fire on South African highways or at intersections made their way onto social media. The 2014 model family SUV would spontaneously combust, often in the front of the vehicle.

Still, Ford South Africa denied there was any reason to recall the car, saying there was not enough data to prove a factory fault. Yet in the US, Ford recalled 400,000 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner model cars in Oct. 2016 due to a fuel leakage even before fires or similar incidents were reported. The Ford Escape is nearly identical to the Ford Kuga, sold in South Africa, Europe and Australia.

Ford eventually announced the recall last month, on Jan. 16, saying 4,566 vehicles built between Dec. 2012 and Feb. 2014 were affected by engine overheating which may lead to fires.

South African Ford drivers began a campaign to bring awareness to their exploding vehicles. The campaign was spearheaded by the family of a man who burned to death in his Ford Kuga in December 2015. Reshall Jimmy, 33, was burned beyond recognition when his car exploded.

Jimmy’s family point to two forensic reports, one by police and the other by an independent investigator, which indicate that the fire was caused by an electrical fault.

Ford South Africa has denied that the 33-year-old’s death had anything to do with their car. The car manufacturer said it is still investigating the incident that led to the death. Other owners of burned Kugas say Ford has not complied with requests for reports on incidents that nearly cost their lives. At least 30 owners are planning a class action lawsuit.

When a television journalist grilled Ford South Africa CEO Jeff Nemeth over the different treatment of South African and American incidents, Nemeth provided an awkward response that his company was doing the best they could.

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