Durban – The Ford brand has been tainted following the safety recall of the defective Kuga SUVs.
Ford has been slated for its poorly managed public relations. Its chief executive, Jeff Nemeth, announced the safety recall of the 1.6-litre Kuga SUVs on Monday after a spate of engine fires that have left owners fuming and fearing for their lives.
At the company’s press briefing, Nemeth said the fires were due to overheating caused by the engine coolant not circulating properly. A total of 39 cases had been reported, including a death allegedly resulting from the explosion.
The family of Reshall Jimmy, who died after his Ford Kuga burst into flames in December 2015, along with other drivers, are instituting a legal claim against Ford.
The recall affected 4 556 Kuga 1.6l Ecoboost models produced between December 2012 and February 2014.
The Sunday Tribune spoke to reputational risk specialist Evelyn Holtzhausen about the reputation damage suffered by Ford. Holtzhausen said that Ford made a big mistake by taking so long to acknowledge the problem.
“They waited far too long before they acknowledged that there was a problem, and when they did, they became very defensive. It’s almost like they said ‘it’s not my fault’ – they were blaming everybody.
“First, they took long to respond, and second, they never took responsibility. And finally, when they took responsibility, they never put plans in place. In the end, customers were treated very badly and their (Ford’s) reputation has really taken a serious knock,” said Holtzhausen.
She said Ford needed to embark on a massive public relations and communication campaign to try to restore trust in people.
“It’s not only for the Kuga owners, it’s everybody who owns a Ford, who would worry if they would get the same kind of service from Ford. I think it’s going to take them years to recover from this very bad PR.
“I would have thought they would have learnt from the mistakes made with the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in Mexico, where BP did a similar thing and it took years to recover their reputation or the harm caused. Ford have done the same thing, they have treated their clients with contempt.” she said.
“The first thing you can say is ‘I am sorry’, apologise to owners, acknowledge they behaved badly and say it would never happen again. My advice to Ford is to embark on massive public relations plan to try and win back the trust of their customers.”
OUTsurance head of client relations Natasha Kawuleser said the company had received a few Ford Kuga claims, and settled all of them.
“We are monitoring the situation, and our actions will depend on whether we can recover the losses from the manufacturer or not,” said Kawuleser.
Meanwhile, Ford car dealerships were busier than usual as the owners of the defective Kuga SUV’s brought in their vehicles to be repaired.
In Durban, employees at Ford dealerships, who didn’t want to be named, said people were relieved when they were allowed to bring in their vehicles.
– The Sunday Independent