The Los Angeles Times reports that nearly 50 Ford Kugas, vehicles we know better as Ford Escape in the United States, burst into flames in South Africa. The article gives the example of Reshall Jimmy, whose car caught fire while the 33-year-old was on vacation. When his body was pulled from the car his body was unidentifiable. Ford South Africa announced on Jan. 16 that it will recall 4,556 1.6-liter Kugas made in Spain after nearly 50 fires involving these vehicles.
Jimmy’s family has already said they plan to file a class-action lawsuit against the automaker over its failure to get these dangerous vehicles off the roadway quickly. The Kuga is the equivalent of the vehicle we know here as the Ford Escape, which has been subject to several recalls including one in 2012 for an engine fire problem. Ford has blamed the problem on hotter weather in South Africa, but even there the automaker issued the recall only after South Africans made noise about it on social media and started an online petition demanding a recall.
According to a police report, Jimmy’s Kuga caught fire due to an electrical problem behind the dashboard. Scores of fires involving the Kuga have been reported in South Africa over the last year, including 11 so far just this month. Even though Ford sent text messages to drivers in December calling on them to bring their cars in for an urgent maintenance check, the vehicles continued to catch fire even after they were inspected.
Is the Problem Limited to Just Kugas?
The answer we don’t have from Ford is whether this problem is limited to Kugas in South Africa. Considering the number of vehicles that have caught fire, the number of vehicles that have been recalled seems small. The question is also how Ford Escapes stack up when it comes to safety. Has Ford really understood the problem that have caused these devastating vehicle fires? Will there be a larger Escape recall in the future? We have to wait and watch.
Vehicle defect cases could result in product liability lawsuits or class action lawsuits. In cases where vehicle owners have suffered property damage, class-action lawsuits are a good way to make them whole. However, where people have suffered catastrophic injuries or have lost a loved one, a product liability lawsuit might be in their best interests. These lawsuits are also a way to hold automakers accountable and force them to take dangerous and defective vehicles off our roadways.