Ford must buy back inflammable Kugas, says campaigner

The government should force Ford to buy back fire-prone Kuga vehicles, says the car review website Two Ford Kuga vehicles have caught fire in New Zealand in the last year, with many more vehicles catching fire internationally.

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says Ford has consistently attempted to evade its responsibilities to its customers.

“Ford has known about this problem since at least 2013, yet appears to have done little to resolve it. In 2015, a South African man was burned to death in a Ford Kuga. Ford’s response was to offer a replacement Ford Kuga to the dead man’s family.

In New Zealand, last Wednesday night, an Auckland couple with a young child were left ‘traumatised’ after the Ford Kuga they thought that been made safe erupted in flames on an Auckland motorway.

Matthew-Wilson says he raised this issue with Ford late last year.

“When I asked Ford what they were going to do about a series of serious vehicle fires, Ford’s response was, basically: ‘nothing’.”

Eventually, earlier this year, Ford was forced to recall 450,000 vehicles worldwide, including in New Zealand, over a coolant leak that could lead to a vehicle fire.

However, the vehicle that caught fire on Wednesday had already had an ‘interim’ repair for this problem.

Matthew-Wilson says it’s clear that the repairs were totally inadequate. In South Africa, six vehicles are known to have caught fire after Ford’s interim repair.

According to the American Automobile Association, Ford is attempting to shift the blame from its own engines to the customer. John Nielsen, managing director of automotive engineering for the AAA, recently told Fox News:

“All [Ford is] doing is monitoring a symptom, not solving a problem. A healthy engine doesn’t leak coolant at all. Ever.”

Most fires have occurred on vehicles fitted with Ford’s 1.6-litre Ecoboost petrol engine. However, Ford also recently recalled all Kugas because the seatbelt may cause the vehicle to catch fire after a collision.

Matthew-Wilson also believes Ford may be attempting to hide an equally serious problem: petrol leakage, which may cause the vehicle to catch fire. In 2013, Ford in America recalled 9,469 Kugas “in order to prevent a fuel leak that could also potentially result in an engine compartment fire.”  (The Ford Kuga is sold as the Ford Escape in the USA).

Matthew-Wilson is concerned that the next Kuga fire could be another fatal one.

“Many owners of Ford Kuga vehicles are now terrified that their vehicles may catch fire. Kugas are also going to be very hard to sell. The only ethical solution is for Ford to buy back the affected vehicles, as Volkswagen was forced to do in the US.

“If it’s good enough for the US government to force a car company to buy back faulty vehicles that may pollute the air, then it’s good enough for the New Zealand government to force a car company to buy back faulty vehicles that may catch fire.”

Matthew-Wilson adds he’s “appalled” at the New Zealand government’s inaction over multiple problems with Ford vehicles.

In Australia, Ford is currently being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), over Ford’s handling of a faulty transmission. According to the ACCC “Some customers took their cars in for repairs up to seven times, but Ford allegedly refused to provide a refund or replacement.”

Matthew-Wilson asks: “While the Australian government is currently suing Ford, the New Zealand government appears to be asleep at the wheel. How many more Ford Kugas need to catch fire before the New Zealand government acts?”

• The Ford Kuga has recently been renamed the Ford Escape in New Zealand and Australia.