CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - U.S. auto-maker Ford <F.N> will recall 4,500 Kuga SUVs sold in South Africa after dozens of reports of the vehicles catching fire spontaneously, the head of the company's South Africa unit said on Monday.
In a joint statement with the National Consumer Commission (NCC), Ford's Southern Africa President and chief executive Jeff Nemeth said the company could confirm 39 incidents of the cars catching fire.
"We are not aware of any injuries that have resulted from our engine compartment fires," Nemeth told a media briefing.
He said early investigations revealed that fires in the Kuga 1.6 liter model, imported from Spain, were likely due to overheating caused by a lack of coolant circulation which could lead to a crack in the cylinder head and oil leaks.
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If oil reached a hot engine component it could catch fire, Nemeth said. Ford officials said at the briefing that hot weather in South Africa could be a contributing factor.
The voluntary recall of the 4,500 cars is down from a previous estimate of 6,300, and will only affect Kuga models built between December 2012 and February 2014.
Nemeth refused to reveal the cost of the recall to Ford, which will replace affected components on the cooling system, update software and conduct tests on cylinder heads.
In October, the company's North American arm recalled 400,000 units of the Ford Escape - the U.S. version of the Kuga - also due to engine problems.
"A product that poses any risk to our consumers does not have a place in our market place," NCC commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed said at the briefing.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Andrew Roche)