South African Ford owners are up in arms after their vehicles were broken into, seemingly because of easy-to-break locks and other faulty security features.
The furore has reached a point where Carte Blanche, one of South Africa's foremost investigative journalism TV shows, will be broadcasting a segment on the issue on April 28.
A Facebook group titled "My FORD was broken into South Africa" has no fewer than 9 293 members who regularly post pictures of their Ford vehicles' locks which were broken in parking lots and at shopping centres, with valuables such as laptops and handbags taken from the cars.
Models targeted by burglars are mostly the Fiesta and EcoSport ranges.
Three cars, one night, one parking lot
On April 15, Ford owner Briony Simon posted a picture on Facebook showing three Ford vehicles in close proximity to one another which had all been broken into that evening at the Centurion Mall.
Simon claims Ford is aware of the problem, but that the company charges R5 000 to repair the locks.
Gary Clack wrote: "I have two motor vehicles, a Ford EcoSport and not a Ford. The Ford EcoSport was broken into three times at the shopping centre I frequent; the door lock was broken on all three occasions. The other car - not a Ford - has never been tampered with at the same shopping centre." Clack posted a picture of his EcoSport's broken lock.
On Thursday, Mikaela Nicolau wrote: "It happened again. In the same gym parking lot. At the same time. I just paid R14 000 to fix it (well, the insurance did) and I've had it back for less than a week.
"When they found nothing in my boot, they moved to the front of my car, hoping to find stuff there...
"I was one of two Fords broken into this morning in the parking.
'I got hit again'
"When I opened my door and the lock cover fell off, I actually started laughing. I genuinely couldn't believe that I got hit again. I parked against the wall (obviously not close enough) and everything else I could possibly think of."
The Facebook group - which was created almost two years ago, on May 15, 2017 - contains countless similar complaints from Ford owners.
Habitat Payments director and former Dimension Data solutions architect Matthew Parker told News24 that breaking into these cars literally takes seconds and that customers are shocked at how easy it is.
How it's done
"They use a tall screwdriver and force it into the lock. The guy then puts his body weight on to the lock and when that lock snaps inside, the manual override of the Ford vehicles is engaged and the doors pop open," Parker said.
While it is possible to open other makes of vehicles in the same way, it does not disable the alarm system as it does with these Ford models, Parker says.
When Parker bought his new Ford 14 months ago, he took the pins out of the locks after his previous Fiesta was broken into several times.
"I started offering this to people on the 'My Ford was broken into' Facebook group and it just exploded. I get no fewer than 60 messages a day from people asking me how to sort out their locks."
Parker says Ford has taken the approach to replacing people's locks, rather than modifying them. "But then the same thing happens. Insurance companies might pay to have the locks replaced two or three times, but they can't carry on doing this," Parker says.
According to Parker the cost of replacing a lock can range from R3 500 to R6 000.
Many users posted a standard response from Ford South Africa to their complaints, which states: "At Ford, our customer's safety and security is of the utmost importance to us - which is why we take vehicle security seriously and invest heavily in security solutions to deter theft.
"Our team of security engineers and crime prevention specialists continuously investigate ways that vehicles are being targeted, and with this information assess whether there are additional deterrence enhancements we can make to our vehicles in response.
"We can confirm that additional security solutions are currently being investigated for previous-generation Fiesta and EcoSport owners. We will provide owners with feedback in due course."
Ford to launch 'enhancements'
On Wednesday, the company tweeted a video response in which Craig von Essen, corporate transformation manager, says: "We at Ford take vehicle security very seriously. While newer EcoSport and Fiesta vehicles are not affected, we are aware of older models being targeted by criminals."
"In some break-ins, we find that the alarm does not sound, although the immobiliser is still active," Von Essen said.
He said Ford regretted "the inconvenience to our customers", adding that the company would soon be launching some enhancements.
This is not the first time Ford has had to deal with issues of safety relating to its vehicles. In January 2017, Ford recalled 4 670 Kuga vehicles in South Africa after countless models caught fire, News24 reported.