Ford Australia has still not committed to recalling Kuga 1.6 models — unlike in South Africa, where it has done so — despite several engine fires being reported locally.
Instead, Ford Australia says it is still speaking with affected owners (several of whom we have referred to higher levels of the company) and "investigating" whether it needs to call-in all Kugas with this engine for a fix.
First, some background. Ford’s South African division last week announced a recall on about 4500 Kugas after numerous reports of spontaneous fires starting in the engine bay, speculated to be a result of poor coolant circulation.
The vehicles in question all use the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which was sold in Australian versions of the Ford Kuga as well. Moreover, both the South African and Australian-market Kugas came from the same plant in Spain.
However, Ford Australia said then that it was still too early to enact a full recall on affected Kuga 1.6 variants here (the South African recall included cars made between December 2012 and February 2014), citing differences under the bonnet that warrant further investigation.
We asked readers to contact us if they owned, or knew someone who owned, a Kuga that had caught fire here. We've heard from three owners already, who we've referred to Ford, and spotted what could be a fourth on social media.
Clearly, we won't allege in an unsubstantiated way that these cars caught fire on account of the same coolant issue as in SA, as we haven't done a forensic investigation, but needless to say we're urging Ford to swiftly sort this investigation and give customers some surety.
We have discussed with three owners (names omitted), two in Queensland and one in Victoria, who had what appeared to be spontaneous Kuga fires.
One of the Brisbane owners said the car was travelling on a highway before the vehicle started clicking, them smoking, then burst into flames. The other said they were in their Kuga with their wife and son when a passerby pointed out flames beneath the car, which allegedly had not prompted the temperature gauge to climb.
The customers claimed to have been dealing with insurance companies and awaiting their investigations, and had been in contact with Ford. We escalated it on their behalf, after at least two had claimed to have received insufficient care from their dealer and Ford's call centre.
There are no reports of injuries.
In light of these reports, we asked Ford's local arm if it would now conduct a recall, 17 days after our original story. Here is the response below in full, from a company spokesman.
"We are aware of these cases and we are in contact with these customers as part of our continuing investigations. If we determine an action is needed in Australia, we will act quickly on behalf of our customers.
"Ford’s investigations are continuing. If we determine an action is needed in Australia, we will act quickly on behalf of our customers. If customers have a specific concern with their vehicle, they should take their vehicle to a dealer for investigation.
"As outlined in the owner’s manual, we encourage customers to maintain regular servicing of their vehicle and monitor the vehicle for normal operation via all instruments and gauges in line with good driving practices."
Clearly this is murky ground, but we'd urge any reader who has experienced or knows about a Kuga 1.6 catching fire to contact us. We can escalate it to the highest levels of Ford Australia, who have committed to being more helpful.
If and when a proper recall is announced, we'll let you know, but in the meantime if you're concerned, visit your dealer.