Fake news on suicide rattling in Kuga boot
Kuga owners claim staff at dealerships that they had taken their cars to for the safety recall had told them that Reshall Jimmy's death in one of the burning vehicles was a suicide.
Ford SA denied the claims made by three different owners on opposite sides of the country.
Jimmy burnt to death in December 2015 when his 2014 1.6l Kuga caught alight while he was on holiday in the Wilderness, in the Western Cape.
His death is the subject of an inquest and an ongoing dispute between his family and Ford SA over the cause.
Dolphins cricketer Vaughn van Jaarsveld, whose family took their Kuga to their Umgeni Road dealership in Durban, said they were shocked when the dealership's staff told them that Jimmy's fire was a suicide and that the other Kuga fires were bogus insurance claims.
Kuga-on-fire moves to New Zealand While Ford Kugas were going up in flames on South African roads in December‚ at least one New Zealand Kuga owner has had the same experience.
"On two separate occasions staff alluded to us that Jimmy killed himself.
"They told us that Ford SA, through 'reliable sources', had learnt his death was a suicide. How do you tarnish someone's character like that especially as the inquest is not complete?"
Janet Watson, owner of a 2013 1.6l Kuga, said she was also told the suicide claim when she took her Kuga to her Umhlanga dealership for repairs.
"The dealer principal told me, when I asked about the fires and for a written guarantee, that my car would not catch fire like Reshall's, that Reshall had committed suicide.
COMMENT: Time for Ford to do the right thing by the consumer‚ and quickly The global car manufacturer has missed a critical opportunity to do right by its customers‚ but it’s not too late to make amends‚ writes Janine Hills‚ founder and CEO of Vuma Reputation Management.
"I was told that Ford SA had informed the dealership that Jimmy's fire was different to the others and there was something fishy about it," she said.
Capetonian Astrid Ryke said she was told that there was something strange about Jimmy's death during a meeting with the dealer principal of Barlow World Ford N1 City about her car's repairs.
"The dealer principal and another staff member questioned why Mr Jimmy didn't get out of the car and that he would have had plenty of time to do so. They said his death was strange and questioned why only he had died and no one else, especially given the number of fires."
Ford broke law by not informing consumer commission of Kuga death - police Ford broke the law when it failed to tell the National Consumer Commission (NCC) of Kuga owner Reshall Jimmy's death - and potentially jeopardised public safety by not telling the motor industry ombudsman.
Spokesman Rella Bernardes said Ford SA was not commenting given the sensitive and distinct nature of Jimmy's case and the on-going legal process.
"No dealer has been instructed to comment in any way regarding the Jimmy case, or on matters beyond the scope of the safety recall action."
Jimmy's sister Renisha said they were devastated by the allegations that Ford dealerships were telling Kuga owners her brother committed suicide.
"Ford is sickening. The postmortem report shows no foul play. Reshall was not suicidal."
'Ford is pathetic ... dealer ordered me not to come to them' The family of Reshall Jimmy, who died in his burning Ford Kuga, and other drivers of the model are suing Ford in a class action over the spontaneous combustion of 48 of the carmaker's SUVs.
Questions on allegations that Ford dealerships were telling customers the fires were for bogus insurance claims went unanswered. Dirk Hitchcock of Barlow World Ford N1 City, said it had been instructed by Barlow World not to comment and referred questions to Ford SA.
Clive Wainwright, dealer principal of CMH Kempster Ford Umhlanga, where Watson took her Kuga, denied the allegations.
"Why would I say something like that? No one knows what happened to that man. His death could have been from anything."
Zach van Greuning, dealer principal of CMH Ford Kempster Umgeni, where the Van Jaarsvelds took their Kuga for repairs, said: "How can we comment on something that we know nothing about?"