Ford New Zealand is awaiting the outcome of an Australian investigation into why a new Everest SUV suddenly burst into flames while being road-tested north of Sydney.
Engineers at Ford Australia headquarters in Melbourne are examining the burnt-out wreck in an effort to find out the cause of the blaze. Until then, it has said, a recall on the Everest would be premature.
Ford NZ, which has sold more than 100 Everests in the past two months, said it can’t comment until the engineers have finished their investigation.
The company’s communications manager Tom Clancy said: “We are aware of a situation involving a motoring reporter driving an Everest.
“We are thankful there are no injuries. We are not aware of any similar reports with Everest but are undertaking an immediate investigation. We will share the outcome of that investigation as soon as results are in”.
Long-time Australian motoring journalist Peter Barnwell was at the wheel of the Everest near his home in Newcastle on Tuesday when the vehicle’s warning lights began to appear. The instrument display then went blank and the engine shut down.
“As I rolled to a stop it just burst into flames,” Barnwell told media across the ditch. “There were flames licking out from under the bonnet.
“I instinctively bolted, grabbing some personal effects on the way and moving to what I thought was safety. Then the explosions started and flaming shrapnel began firing out of the wreck. I took shelter behind a tree.”
The fire brigade arrived minutes later but it took them some time to put the fire out. “Some of the material wouldn’t extinguish,” said Barnwell.
Ford later trucked the Everest to Melbourne. Its probe into the cause of the fire could affect the 1200 or so Everest SUVs already on the road in Australia and New Zealand.
It could also affect tens of thousands of Ranger utes, which share the same 3.2-litre diesel engine and electrical system and are made on the same production line in Thailand.
Barnwell said the Everest – a Ford world car available in 140 countries – had given him trouble three days into his test drive. “There was a warning about the car needing Adblue (an additive for diesel) otherwise the engine was going to shut down after 750km,” he wrote.
“I phoned the Ford dealer who said they’d fill up the Adblue tank when I returned the vehicle. But the warning continued cycling every 10 minutes or so. The next day the phone started dropping out and rebooting and there was a battery warning.
“I parked the Everest and returned to find it wouldn’t unlock using the key fob despite a number of attempts. The electric tailgate wouldn’t open either.
“I finally gained access through the driver’s door and tried to unlock the other doors – no go. Lucky that didn’t happen when the thing went up in flames.”