Ford SA denies the claims made to The Times by three different owners on opposite sides of the country.
Jimmy burnt to death in December 2015 when his 2014 1.6l Kuga caught alight while he was on holiday in the Wilderness‚ in the Western Cape. His death is the subject of an inquest and on-going dispute between his family and Ford SA over the cause.
Dolphin’s cricketer Vaughn van Jaarsveld‚ whose family took their Kuga to their Umgeni Road dealership in Durban‚ said they were shocked when the dealership’s staff told them that Jimmy’s fire was a suicide and that the other Kuga fires were bogus insurance claims.
“On two separate occasions staff alluded to us that Jimmy killed himself.
“They told us that Ford SA‚ through ’reliable sources’‚ had learnt his death was a suicide. How do you tarnish someone’s character like that especially as the inquest is not complete?”
Janet Watson‚ owner of a 2013 1.6l Kuga‚ said the suicide claim was also related to her when she took her Kuga to her Umhlanga dealership for repairs.
“The dealer principal told me‚ when I asked about the fires and for a written guarantee that my car would not catch fire like Reshall’s‚ that Reshall had committed suicide.
“I was told that Ford SA had informed the dealership that Jimmy’s fire was different to the others and there was something fishy about it‚” she said.
Capetonian Astrid Ryke said in a meeting with the dealer principal of Barlow World Ford N1 City about her car’s repairs‚ she was told that there was something strange about Jimmy’s death.
“The dealer principal and another staff member questioned why Mr Jimmy didn’t get out of the car and that he would have had plenty of time to do so. They said his death was strange and questioned why only he had died and no one else‚ especially given the number of fires.”
Ford SA’s spokesperson‚ Rella Bernardes‚ denied Ford had issued any such instructions.
She said Ford SA was not commenting given the sensitive and distinct nature of Jimmy’s case and the on-going legal process.
“No dealer has been instructed to comment in any way regarding the Jimmy case‚ or on matters beyond the scope of the safety recall action.”
Jimmy’s sister Renisha said they were devastated by the allegations that Ford dealerships were telling Kuga owners her brother committed suicide. “Ford is sickening. The post mortem report shows no foul play. Reshall was not suicidal.”
Questions on allegations that Ford dealerships were telling customers the fires were for bogus insurance claims went unanswered.
Dirk Hitchcock of Barlow World Ford N1 City said they had been instructed by Barlow World not to comment and referred questions to Ford SA.
Clive Wainwright‚ dealer principal of CMH Kempster Ford Umhlanga‚ where Watson took her Kuga‚ denied the allegations.
“Why would I say something like that? No one knows what happened to that man. His death could have been from anything.”
Zach van Greuning‚ dealer principal of CMH Ford Kempster Umgeni‚ where the Van Jaarsveld’s took their Kuga for repairs‚ said: “How can we comment on something that we know nothing about?”