Ford Kuga SA sales plummeted 50% in January compared to the previous month, as consumer outrage grew over continuing reports of the family sport utility vehicle’s catching fire.

More than 4,500 Ford Kugas are being recalled for compulsory safety checks after the company — under pressure from the National Consumer Commission — announced the safety recall on January 16.

Commenting on the latest National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) vehicle sales figures‚ Ford SA said on Friday that its January sales of 6,634 vehicles had shown an improvement of 1.7% when compared to January 2016.

But just 74 Kuga models were sold in January‚ compared to 146 in December — a 50% drop. This was despite the fact that the 1.6l model was replaced by a 1.5l model in late 2014.

“We are encouraged by, and grateful for, the continued customer confidence in the Ford brand and our current range of products‚ despite the challenges relating to the safety recall announced in January for the 1.6l Kuga sold in SA in 2013 and 2014‚” Gerhard Herselman‚ GM for sales for Ford sub-Saharan Africa‚ said in a statement.

The Times broke the story about how many Kugas were catching fire in early December. Kuga sales for the five months before that were significantly higher — 199 in November‚ 174 in October‚ 154 in September‚ 206 in August and 204 in July.

New Zealand

At least one New Zealand Kuga owner has had the same experience.

TV-NZ broadcast news of Eden O’Connor’s December 16 Kuga-on-fire experience on Thursday‚ making reference to the numerous Kugas of the same model that have gone up in flames in SA.

The segment included footage of Maria Daniels of Port Elizabeth’s Kuga on fire at the side of the road‚ with an anguished spectator screaming “Get away from the car!”

Her vehicle caught fire on the New Year weekend after she had taken it in to a Ford dealership for a safety check to avoid engine overheating‚ which Ford SA later said had not actually been done.

O’Connor’s Kuga was a 2013 model‚ and it was serviced just before the incident. There were three children in the back seat when the vehicle caught alight.

It would appear that Ford in New Zealand has not alerted its dealerships or Kuga owners in that country about any fire-related risks.

Ford New Zealand’s communications manager‚ Tom Clancy‚ was quoted in New Zealand media as saying that the case was being investigated and that it was a “major concern”.

“If there is a safety defect found‚ we will move very quickly on behalf of all our customers‚” he said in a message reminiscent of the official response Ford SA gave until the National Consumer Commission forced the company to announce a safety recall in mid-January.

TimesLive asked Ford SA if the 1.6l Kuga that was sold in New Zealand, was made in the same Spanish plant as the problematic 1.6l model sold in SA and whether the company knows of any other Kuga fires in markets outside of SA‚ but had not received a response at the time of writing.

TMG Digital

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