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ACCC takes action over Ford transmissions

In Focus: Ford’s Focus small car is one of three Ford models beset with problems with Powershift transmissions that have now incurred the wrath of the ACCC.

Ford faces ACCC action over ‘unconscionable conduct’ on PowerShift transmissions

Ford logo26 Jul 2017

THE Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has started legal proceedings against Ford Motor Company of Australia, alleging unconscionable and misleading or deceptive conduct over vehicles sold with the troublesome PowerShift dry-clutch transmission in Australia between 2011 and 2016.

The federal watchdog also alleges Ford made false or misleading representations in its response to customer complaints about the transmissions fitted to about 70,000 Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport vehicles.

Ford Australia today vehemently denied the charges, saying it will challenge them.

The company’s president and CEO Graeme Whickman said that while Ford strongly refuted the allegations, the company would work with the ACCC “wherever needed to help provide certainty about the application of Australian consumer law for our industry”.

“Our focus right now is on continuing to get the latest specification clutch to our customers so they can enjoy their vehicles as intended,” he said.

Ford Australia concedes that problems have arisen with the PowerShift transmission (PST) on certain vehicles.

“We acknowledge that some customers had a poor experience when the clutch shudder issues on the PowerShift transmission first came to light and we are sorry for this,” Mr Whickman said in a statement.

“We’ve continued to improve our response times to customers and have been repairing vehicles, compensating customers, and depending on the circumstances, providing full refunds and providing replacement vehicles.

“Repairs are available for all PowerShift transmission issues and all new vehicles on sale today are built with the latest updates.”

According to the ACCC, about half of the 70,000 Ford vehicles sold with the transmission – a dual-clutch automatic gearbox – had at least one repair relating to issues surrounding the transmission.

“Customers made complaints to Ford and its dealers about their car’s excessive shuddering and jerking when accelerating, loss of gear selection and sudden loss of power and/or excessive noisiness from the PST,” the ACCC says in a statement released to media today.

“From 2011 to May 2015, Ford allegedly refused to provide a refund or replacement vehicle to consumers, even after vehicles had undergone multiple repairs that had not fixed the issue.

“In most cases, Ford only provided replacement vehicles in accordance with its PowerShift Ownership Loyalty Program, which required consumers to make a significant payment towards a replacement vehicle.”

The ACCC alleges this payment averaged $7000, and as a result, owners who could not afford this payment felt they had no other option but to continue to use their vehicle.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said that even though Ford was aware of systemic problems with the vehicles from at least 2013, the company misrepresented to customers who made complaints that the issues were caused by the way the driver handled the vehicle.

“The ACCC alleges that Ford’s conduct towards customers who had complained of issues with their vehicles was unconscionable,” he said.

“It is also alleged that Ford then on-sold vehicles surrendered as part of the Powershift Ownership Loyalty Program to wholesalers and customers, without disclosing the systemic or specific issues experienced with those vehicles.”

Ford denies that faulty cars were on-sold, saying all cars had been fully repaired before going to new owners.

The ACCC says it is seeking “declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, consumer redress orders, corrective advertising and compliance program obligations” from Ford.

Ford ditched the PowerShift transmission on Focus when it updated the Thai-built small car in 2015, reverting to a conventional torque converter unit.

Apart from the ACCC action, Ford is facing a class action from disenchanted Ford customers over the issue.

The suit, brought by Bannister Law, was brought last year and is now before the federal court.

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