Kuga engine fire recall heats up

A local television news programme claims its probe into Ford Kuga engine fire incidents has triggered a recall. Ford tells a different story


CRITICISM of Ford New Zealand for being too tardy in remediating an engine fire issue affecting a version of its Kuga family sports utility has been responded to by the brand.

Comment from Ford New Zealand about why the recall is occurring now also contradicts a claim that it is acting in response to a television news programme investigation.

Broadcaster Television New Zealand’s 1 NEWS claimed today its investigation into under bonnet fires led to the recall.

However, Ford New Zealand spokesman Tom Clancy says an action that concerns 911 Kugas built between 2012 and 2014 and, as a precaution, 69 Fiesta STs (built between 2013 and 2015) also using the 1.6-lite GTDI petrol engine - all sold new here - is simply part of a global action and nothing more.

Recalls are also planned in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and South America, with a total of 464,800 vehicles involved globally.

Stories about 1.6-litre Kugas being susceptible to catching fire have been circulating internationally for months.

Clancy says there have three cited incidents involving New Zealand market Kugas, two of which have been confirmed as bone fide cases. No Fiesta ST issues have been reported here.

“We have two confirmed cases that were related, after investigations, to this … we have a third incident but the investigation did not find any manufacturer defect.”

Other Kuga fire incidents have reportedly occurred in Australia and South Africa.

Ford’s investigation of these vehicles has identified a risk of catching fire when the engine overheats to the point where the cylinder head cracks, Clancy says.

In the affected vehicles, a lack of coolant circulation could cause an engine to overheat, resulting in a crack in the cylinder head.

That can result in an oil leak, which increases the risk of fire if it comes into contact with a hot engine.

The recall will happen in two stages, over the second and fourth quarters of this year.

The first part is to fix the coolant system, replacing valving, and the second part is fit in a superior sensor to warn of engine heat build up.

“Customers can continue to drive their vehicles but should see their dealer if their vehicle exhibits a coolant leak or overheating or frequently needs coolant added,” Clancy says.

“Ford is committed to providing our customers with top quality vehicles. We are equally committed to addressing potential issues and responding quickly for our customers.”

Today’s 1 NEWS report featured Eden O'Connor, the owner of a 2013 Kuga that caught fire on December 16, with children in the back.

The incident is described as being out of the blue and 1 NEWS says its story led about this incident led Ford to investigate the problem.

O'Connor says Ford has taken too long to act. “It's pretty scary to know that they've let people drive the car so long knowing what happened to my car.”

Clancy says O’Connor’s vehicle was the one in which investigators could find no obvious defect though the brand subsequently concluded “it was highly suspect” so treated it as a suspect car.

The news reported quoted another owner, Ebony Sym, expressing nervousness about her 2014 Kuga after recently having engine cooling problems repaired.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has also weighed in, suggesting customers affected by the recall could be entitled to a refund or replacement under the Consumer Guarantees Act.

Clancy says Ford’s process is to repair the cars. “It’s a recall. A standard recall. We will fix the problem.”

“If anyone has a concern then they need to come and talk to us or a dealer. It’s like anything. You cannot outright say ‘no, there will not be any refunds.’ It has to be treated case by case.”

In respect to the time taken by Ford to act, Clancy replied: “With any of these (recalls), you have to work with the data you’ve got.

“If it’s something like a door latch, then it is pretty apparent what it is. With a fire it is a complex issue.

“These things can start for any number of reasons. You’ve got to be sure you’ve got the right reason.

“And, also, once you’ve found out what it is, you’ve got to make sure you have the right solution, the right fix. You have to run it through engineering tests and certify it.

“So it does take longer.”

Ford does not believe the issue affects more than this specific engine in these cars, built over a certain period.

The recently-launched Escape, a rebadged and facelifted version of the Kuga, does not use this engine.