Ford Motor Company South Africa has been fined R35m by the National Consumer Commission of South Africa after it found the company had "engaged in prohibited conduct" by distributing the Ford Kuga 1.6 EcoBoost, some of which caught fire.
Furthermore, the commission and Ford also reached a settlement agreement for the 160 complainants, acting head of the commission Thezi Mabuza announced on Friday.
In terms of the agreement, complainants will have three options. The first option is a settlement of R50 000 which will be a full and final settlement. This is over and above the refund, repair or replacement of the vehicle, which Ford has already paid.
If the complainant feels the damages incurred by the vehicle combusting is more, they can enter an arbitration process, which will be conducted by advocate Terry Motau SC, whose bill will be paid by Ford.
It will be up to the complainant to prove that the damages incurred were more than R50 000.
If neither of these options is agreeable to a complainant, he or she can head to civil court.
In 2016 and 2017, 56 Ford Kuga 1.6 EcoBoost vehicles caught fire.
Mabuza said they had received 160 complaints from consumers, an "alarming number" of complaints against one company in such a short time.
Ford had three recalls of the models and spent R335m dealing with the matter.
Mabuza said the amount Ford had already spent was considered when determining the fine of R35m.
The commission conducted an investigation and found a failure in the cooling system of the particular model – which was manufactured in Spain specifically for South Africa - was the cause of the fires.
"Ford engaged in prohibited conduct by distributing vehicles that failed," Mabuza said.
"The investigation did reveal that there was no negligence."
The case of Reshall Jimmy, who was found dead in his burnt-out 2014 1.6L Ford Kuga in Wilderness, George, on December 4, 2015, was not part of their investigation, as it does not fall within the commission's purview and was subject to its own inquest in the High Court.
Ford was invited to participate in Friday's press briefing, but their CEO "was engaged in other activities," Mabuza said.