Embattled Ford SA CEO Jeffery Nemeth‚ who was forced to announce the recall of 4 556 of its Kuga SUVs because of critical safety flaws in January‚ has been recalled to the US.
The recall was announced by Ford late on Tuesday afternoon.
His recall comes days after the Sunday Times reported that South African insurance giants‚ Auto & General and Dialdirect‚ were to take legal action against Ford in connection with fires which have destroyed several Ford EcoSport SUVs.
Ford has claimed that it is only aware of one fire incident involving an EcoSport.
Nemeth‚ in an interview with The Times on Tuesday‚ denied that his return to the US had anything to do with the Kuga safety recall.
Ford drew severe criticism for its handling of the Kuga fiasco which prompted the National Consumer Commission to launch an official investigation into the fires and how the company dealt with the incidents.
Over 50 1.6l Kugas manufactured between 2012 and 2014 have been destroyed in fires across the country since 2015.
The fires‚ according to Ford‚ were caused by a faulty coolant system. Independent forensic investigators however claim that the coolant system is not the only cause of the fires‚ one of which which claimed the life of Reshall Jimmy in December 2015.
Jimmy was on holiday in the Wilderness‚ in the Western Cape‚ when he burnt to death in his 1.6l 2014 Kuga. Police and independent forensic experts claim that the fire which killed Jimmy was caused by an electrical fault behind the car’s dashboard.
Ford however insists that the fire which killed Jimmy has nothing to do with the other Kuga fires.
Nementh‚ whose replacement Casper Kruger takes over this week‚ said that his contract had been due to end in June.
“It has been a wonderful seven years‚ There was always a plan to end my contract. We have found a capable replacement for me‚ who will take over on 1 April. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in South Africa working with ordinary people as well as with government. Its been a great experience.”
Asked whether he would stay with Ford and where his new posting would be‚ Nemeth said that he was returning to the US and would continue to work with Ford.
“Where in the company that will be‚ I do not know yet.”
Pressed on whether the Kuga recall had had anything to do with his recall‚ Nemeth said: “What I can say is that the Kuga incidents have absolutely nothing to do with my recall. My recall was being planned long before the Kuga recall.”
Ford SA in a statement said that Kruger would assume the position of managing director.
Jacques Brent‚ president of Ford Middle East and Africa said: “Casper’s extensive experience and expertise in sales and marketing‚ together with his deep experience in working closely with dealers and their customers‚ will be a great asset in strengthening our retail business in the region.”
Kruger is the outgoing vice president of Vehicle Sales and Dealer Network at Toyota South Africa. – TMG Digital/The Times