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Revealed: The Kuga warnings Ford ignored

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Ford was warned for at least a year that its Kuga SUV had potentially deadly problems – but appears not to have acted on the alarm bells. At least 47 Kugas have caught alight and one person has died after his car burst into flames.

An investigation by The Times has established that Ford SA was warned of the problems last January following an investigator’s probe into two Kuga fires. Insurance companies also confirmed that they had alerted the company to issues relating to the Kuga going back as far as 2014.

Ford issued an alert to Kuga owners only in December after the National Consumer Commission summoned it following our reports about the burning vehicles and about the death of Reshall Jimmy. Jimmy died when his Kuga caught fire in December 2015.

Ford and the consumer commission are due to make a “major announcement” today. Speculation is that it will involve a recall of the model, one of which caught fire as recently as Saturday.

E-mails seen by The Times show that fire investigator Larry Jenkinson, hired by Discovery Insure, raised the alarm with the insurance company after he investigated two Kuga fires in January last year. Jenkinson believed the fires were similar to fires in a similar model in the US and Europe, following which Ford ordered a mass recall of the vehicle.

But Ford’s news operations director, John Gardiner, said the recalled vehicles are not the same as the ones imported into South Africa. Ford did not respond to questions asking what it had done when alerted to the problems.

It was Jenkinson’s report into a fire which destroyed Pretoria mother Zané Verhoef’s Kuga that caught the attention of Discovery Insure’s claims specialist, Shawn Muller. Verhoef was rescued from her burning car after her daughter, Tinique, 11, stopped another motorist. Verhoef had managed to get Tinique out of the car, but was trapped when her feet got stuck underneath the car’s pedals.

Verhoef’s fire occurred a month after Jimmy’s car caught alight. Jenkinson’s report concludes that the fire had been at the back and lower extremities of the engine compartment of Verhoef’s Kuga.

“The fire is considered to have occurred on the superheated surfaces of the exhaust manifold, the turbocharger and the catalytic converter. The combustible media that was ignited is engine oil and oil vapours that have leaked from the engine in or around the engine’s turbocharger and/or the cylinder head,” his report said.

“The nature of the oil leakage condition is entirely consistent with other problems apparently caused through localised engine overheating conditions that have already been identified by Ford USA and Europe and recall campaigns have already been introduced to attend to the problem.”

Jenkinson said he could find no other reasons for the fire.

The Times has learnt that, after receiving Jenkinson’s report, Muller contacted Ford five times between January and February to alert them to the findings. Verhoef’s husband, Bertie, who was given Jenkinson’s report, e-mailed it to Ford’s Phineas Papo, but no response was forthcoming.

“When Ford stopped communicating, Discovery told us they would handle the matter. They said the report was in our favour and they would take Ford on.”

The Times has seen several e-mails, in which Jenkinson’s report is attached, sent in August by Discovery to Ford, in which the insurer questions the lack of responses to its queries and the concerns of its clients.

Discovery confirmed that it had attempted to liaise with Ford SA on fire-related claims from 2016. Ford had acknowledged receipt of its e-mails. Discovery, which has dealt with three Kuga fire claims, declined to answer if Ford had provided it with a detailed response.

Robyn Farrell, CEO of Telesure’s short-term insurance division that includes Dial Direct – which had insured Jimmy’s Kuga – said it had rejected two Kuga fire claims, one of which was Jimmy’s.

“Those two claims were rejected as the fire was found to be caused by a mechanical fault; a standard exclusion on vehicle policies.”

Telesure said it had 775 of the 1.6 litre Kugas in question on its books. Farrell said Telesure had contacted Ford SA after every one of the claims and advised its customers to do the same. The company didn’t say how or whether Ford had responded.

Between 2014 and 2016 insurer Santam processed five Kuga claims and settled all of them. Santam spokesman Donald Kau said: “Ford SA was made aware of those claims.”

Hollard spokesman Warwick Bloom said the insurer had handled two such claims in the past year. Bloom said if a manufacturer’s defect is to blame, it could potentially institute recovery action against Ford. He said in one of the cases the client had opted to pursue “a recovery” directly against Ford.

The SA Insurance Association said it was concerned with the “phenomenon in which multiple Kugas were damaged by fire”.

“It’s come to our notice that a similar model has been recalled by the manufacturer in the US. We trust the manufacturer in South Africa will follow suit and a proper investigation will be done to confirm the cause of the fire damage to so many vehicles so the problem can be addressed appropriately.”

Ford’s Gardiner said it was in contact with insurance companies, “but it would be inappropriate for us to discuss the dialogue with them at this time”. He said recalls in the US related to 2013-model 1.6 litre Escapes built in Louisville, Kentucky. [Kugas are known as Escapes in the US.]

“It did not relate to Escape vehicles built elsewhere in the world, or to the Ford Kuga models built in Europe, including those exported to South Africa. Our decisions [on recalls] are driven by the data available. When the data indicates a safety recall is needed, we move quickly on behalf of our customers.

“Our investigation in South Africa is not complete, but we have agreed with the National Consumer Commission that we will keep it and Kuga customers updated on our progress and will report back to it at the end of February.”

Gardiner said investigations into the Kuga fires in South Africa have led Ford to discover that the fires may be a result of engine overheating. He said customers with these vehicles should take their cars to a Ford dealer where the coolant systems can be checked.

Source: The Times

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COVA Insurtech Dissociates from COVA Wealthtech

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COVA Insurtech, a player in the InsurTech sector, has announced its formal dissociation from the activities of COVA WealthTech, effective immediately. This decision comes in the wake of COVA WealthTech’s announced cessation of operations on February 10, 2024.

These two (2) brands have historically been separate entities with distinct focuses within the tech landscape. While both companies share the COVA brand, they operated independently, each catering to specific market segments and addressing unique financial service needs.

The decision to shut down COVA WealthTech was taken in alignment with the evolving dynamics of the tech industry, and after a thorough strategic review by the leadership of COVA WealthTech. COVA Insutech was not involved in or influenced by the decision to cease operations of COVA WealthTech.

COVA Insutech wishes to reassure its clients, partners, and stakeholders that its operations remain unaffected by the closure of COVA WealthTech. The company remains committed to providing innovative and reliable InsurTech solutions, maintaining the high standards of service that its clients have come to expect.

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“We want to make it clear that COVA Insutech is a separate entity from COVA WealthTech, and our commitment to our clients and partners remains steadfast. We will continue to focus on delivering cutting-edge insurtech solutions and expanding our presence in the InsurTech sector”. says Bayo Adesanya, Founder & CEO, COVA Insurtech.

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aYo Holdings boosts executive team

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aYo Holdings Ivan Welch and Miles Bloemstein

African insurtech aYo Holdings has made two key C-suite appointments as it looks to accelerate its ambitious growth plans across the continent and into the South African market. The company has named Ivan Welch as its new Chief Customer Acquisition Officer and Miles Bloemstein as its Chief Operating Officer as part of its vision of becoming the largest insurance technology platform in Africa.

Welch, who has already been with aYo for four years, will be responsible for driving new customer acquisition through various distribution channels, with a specific focus on digital marketing and sales. His position will also include a commercial legal remit and administrative oversight, and support of the company’s subsidiary operations.

A 20-year veteran of the African insurance sector, Welch defines success as a world where every customer with a mobile phone has an aYo subscription, which would have been obtained through a simple few clicks or button presses on a mobile device. While approximately 46% of Africa’s population has access to and uses cell phone services, insurance penetration remains below 5% in most markets, except South Africa.

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“The industry has so much scope for development, as it is massively underserved in Africa. With aYo and our shareholders, MTN and Sanlam, I believe we have the right offering, platforms and ability to scale to serve this market,” he said.

Bloemstein joined aYo in July 2021.  He also has more than 20 years’ experience in the insurance industry, specifically in IT operations and related functions.  His new position will include him overseeing the day-to-day operations of the business, working closely with executive and product teams to grow the platform and its system and channel capabilities.

“We must constantly find ways to keep our clients engaged and be able to have access to insurance. Due to low disposable income levels, insurance adoption and trust in insurers, we are being challenged to produce ‘out of the box’ solutions to keep our clients engaged and active,” he said.

aYo Group CEO Marius Botha said Welch and Bloemstein’s expertise are key to the company’s drive to enable the distribution of affordable financial services products to people who have never had the opportunity to engage in financial services before. aYo launched in January 2017 in Uganda and has since expanded its operations across Ghana, Zambia, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon, with plans to launch operations in Nigeria and South Africa imminent.

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Fearless Energy Drink Backs Fanfaro Autofest 2022

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Fearless energy drink from the stable of Rite Foods Limited has made full preparation to support this year’s Fanfaro Autofest event as the headline sponsor. This is in its bid to make the platform bigger and more thrilling for car drifters, super bikers, and fun seekers in the ancient city of Ibadan from Friday, 2nd to Sunday, 4th December 2022.

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Fanfaro Oil Nigeria, Mr. Adekunle Olanrewaju, stated that the support from the Fearless energy drink is enormous hence the event is credited to it and dubbed “Fanfaro Autofest, Fearless Edition,” as the contestants will be rejuvenated with the brand’s positive energy and courageous spirit to actively showcase their talent in car drifting.

“It takes a lot for someone to align with your dream; it takes like minds to be part of it. The previous events have been successful, but now having the marketing leading; Fearless brand behind it, is a success even before the start of the event.  The brand also resonates with what the sport stands for, we are fearless, tough, energetic, and want to make it more exhilarating,” Olanrewaju explained.

He pointed out that with the Fearless brand behind the largest motorsport in the country, Nigerians should expect more exciting and action-packed sporting activities, as the product has been with Fanfaro from the planning stage to the exercise which takes a year to put together, and also for a refreshing moment with the trailblazer in the energy drink segment.

According to him, a Fearless brand raffle draw will be organised before the main event in November, where participants would be told to make a creative design with five empty bottles of the product, with the winners going home with exciting gifts.

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Commenting on the sponsorship, Rite Foods Head of Marketing, Olumide Aruleba, affirmed that the Fearless brand is very proud to throw its weight behind the sport, as it will bring into it the positive energy associated with the brand as a means to create the desired impact and make it a ground-breaking event. “We also want everyone to look forward to it,” he stated.

On her part, the Assistant Brand Manager of Fearless Energy Drink, Kanyisola Sangowawa, said the support from the product signpost is its connection with consumers in keeping them refreshed by providing the vigour needed while attaining their dreams or showcasing useful talents. She avowed that it takes a fearless spirit to support an action like the auto fest, which requires boldness, daring force, and strength in making it a success.

In his remark, the Fearless Brand Ambassador and the Face of Fanfaro Autofest, the Fearless Edition, Tobi Bakre, actor and a lead cast in the movie, Brotherhood, extolled the partnership between the Fearless energy drink and the motorsport, stating that both connects with a Fearless and reinvigorating force.

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