Ford upbeat on local sales despite safety recall in South Africa

U.S. auto-maker Ford said on Friday sales of its vehicles in South Africa remained resilient, despite a challenging start to the year as safety concerns led to the recall of thousands of vehicles, a senior company official said.

In January, Ford recalled around 4,500 Kuga SUVs sold in South Africa after dozens of reports of the vehicles catching fire spontaneously due to engine overheating.

With a total of 6,634 vehicles sold last month, Ford sales were up 1.7 percent compared to the same month last year, while the company's overall market share was 14.5 percent, Ford said in a statement.

"We are encouraged by and grateful for the continued customer confidence in the Ford brand... despite the challenges relating to the safety recall announced in January for the 1.6-litre Kuga sold in South Africa in 2013 and 2014," said Gerhard Herselman, general manager for sales��at Ford's sub-Saharan region.

He said Ford was committed to addressing customer concerns as it sought to limit the impact among affected customers who complain that Ford was tardy in its response to the Kuga problem.

South Africa's new vehicle sales rose 3.7 percent year-on-year to 50,333 units in January, data from the trade and industry department showed this week.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Adrian Croft)