New ford everest suv catches fire during a test drive destroyed by the blaze

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FORD Australia is conducting an investigation into what caused its latest model — the new Everest SUV — to suddenly burst into flames during a test drive.

The car maker is yet to issue a recall until it examines the wreckage.

But the incident could affect not only the 1000 or so Everest SUVs on the road, but more than 100,000 Ford Ranger utes, which share the same engine and electrical system and are made on the same production line.

One of News Corp Australias motoring journalists, Peter Barnwell, was road testing the just-released new model which was designed and engineered in Australia but is built in Thailand when warning lights started to appear before the instrument display went blank and the engine shut down.

As I rolled to a stop it just burst into flames, said Mr Barnwell. There were flames licking out from under the bonnet.

The fire brigade arrived within five minutes but it took them more than 20 minutes to extinguish the flames.

They couldnt put the fire out for ages, said Mr Barnwell. Some of the material wouldnt extinguish. There were explosions and bits of shrapnel firing 50m down the road. I got as far away from the thing as I could.

The fire quickly engulfed the front of the car before working its way towards the cabin.

A mum with all seats occupied with little kids or babies would have struggled to get them all out, especially if the thick acrid smoke wasnt being blown to the side by a strong crosswind, said Mr Barnwell.

Ford Australia spokesman Wes Sherwood said this is the first incident of this type.

We are not aware of similar reports regarding the new Everest, the new Ranger or the previous Ranger, said Mr Sherwood.

The fire happened late Tuesday on Redhead Road near Newcastle on the NSW central coast, about 175km north of Sydney.

The burnt wreckage was due to arrive late Wednesday at Ford Australias engineering headquarters in Melbourne, where a thorough investigation will be conducted.

We want to assure customers were doing everything we can to investigate the matter, said Mr Sherwood.

Ford says a recall would be premature until they know the cause of the incident.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling