Freep: Ford knowingly made rubbish transmissions
Phoebe Wall Howard of the Detroit Free Press, in a story picked up by USA Today, wrote that seven Ford employees knew about defects in transmissions used by the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus.
The employees told the Freep writer that the problems were known to Engineering, Product Development, and Manufacturing alike, along with other groups. The DPS6 dual-clutch transmission, dubbed “PowerShift,” was installed in two million cars. While dual-dry-clutch (DDCT) transmissions are common, the Ford design did not have appropriate cooling, resulting in numerous failures that triggered a lawsuit and criminal investigation. (Over 4,300 complaints were filed with the federal government, with fifty injuries.)
This Fiesta does not have the DDCT.
This follows the Freep’s July 2019 story which concluded that Ford knew the transmission was defective before the cars were built. The company didn’t profit much from their move; the Freep estimated that they paid $3 billion in warranty costs, as well as legal expenses (a $35 million class action suit is pending, along with 13,000 lawsuits). After the newspaper’s story, Ford issued an extended warranty on the clutch of cars not already covered by an extension in 2014.
Once the transmission’s problems were known, Ford considered ending its production, but chose not to because it would delay future cars, reduce fuel economy, and increase their own costs.
The Freep has far more detail, including the employees’ own stories; they spoke up partly because the problems cause stalls and unexpected shifts to neutral, and partly because they felt Ford’s reactions were more for publicity than for safety. Employees were reportedly told to change their wording to avoid NHTSA actions. Court documents in the story reinforce the employees’ statements.
Clark Westfield grew up fixing up and driving past-their-prime American cars, including various GM and Mopar V8s. He has ghostwritten auto news for the last few years, lives in Farmingdale, New York, and can be reached at +1.516-531-4021.