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Ford could face court over transmission issues

Dual personalities: The WT 1.6-litre Fiesta and WZ 1.5-litre Fiesta produced between 2011 and 2014 were offered with Ford's troubled Powershift dual-clutch transmission.

Law firm gauges interest in class action over Ford's troublesome Powershift DCT

Ford logo4 May 2016

FORD Australia could face a class action over its trouble-plagued Powershift dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) that is fitted to some of the Blue Oval's best selling models.

The legal proceedings have been initiated by Australian firm Bannister Law, the same firm that kicked off a class against Volkswagen Group Australia over the diesel emissions scandal.

Bannister Law says it has been contacted by many Ford owners who have alleged their vehicles are “defective” and that the Powershift transmission “slips, bucks, jerks, and harshly engages when driven”.

Other allegations by owners, according to Bannister Law, include that while driving, they have experienced, without warning, “sudden acceleration, delay in downshifts, delayed acceleration and, in some circumstances, difficulty in stopping the vehicle whilst braking”.

The law firm says that some of the owners are concerned that “their vehicles are unsafe to drive”.

The models fitted with the Powershift transmission include the LW Focus in 1.6- and 2.0-litre variants built between 2011 and 2014, the WT 1.6-litre Fiesta and WZ 1.5-litre Fiesta produced between 2011 and 2014 and the 1.5-litre EcoSport crossover built from 2013 to 2014.

Ford's LZ Focus that went on sale last year is not impacted as the company replaced the DCT with a more conventional six-speed torque converter automatic as part of the mid-life facelift, but the Powershift transmission is still available in the Fiesta and EcoSport.

A statement from Ford Australia says the car-maker is working through the issues with affected customers and suggested that if owners have further issues, they should contact their local dealer.

“Ford is committed to providing its customers with top quality vehicles. We are equally committed to addressing potential issues and responding quickly for our customers.

“We have addressed the majority of our customers’ questions and are pleased with our ongoing improvement in customer satisfaction levels.

“We encourage customers to work with their local dealers on their individual circumstances.

“Ford’s PowerShift transmission uses an advanced configuration that provides exceptional powertrain efficiency, along with the potential for unique shift feel compared with conventional automatics.”

Bannister Law is encouraging dissatisfied customers to sign up to the class action and said that if it proceeds, it will also be claiming legal costs from Ford Australia.

The firm says that customers have informed them that Ford dealers and service centres “initially denied that there were any problems with the Powershift transmission, or the vehicles at all”.

“However, following a number of complaints, we understand that some consumers, at the request of Ford dealers, have returned their vehicles to Ford service centres so that the defects in the Powershift transmission can be remedied.

“However, our instructions are that, within a short time after the vehicles have returned from the service centres, the same problems re-appear whilst driving the vehicles,” the statement on the Bannister Law website read.

In mid 2014 Ford Australia called 45,000 Focuses back to service centres for a software update that reprogrammed the “adaptive learning strategy for the transmission”.

Ford attempted to smooth over the Powershift issues with customers in 2014 by extending the regular three-year/100,000km warranty to five years/160,000km on all Powershift-equipped models, covering the transmission’s clutch and input shaft seals as well as its software calibration.

In September last year, Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman told journalists at the Focus launch that the car-maker had been “working with customers one-on-one” to try and resolve Powershift issues as they arise.

“We watch everything consistently through our customer resolution centre, and we work with our dealers, and we are on top of it,” he said at the time.

“If the customer rings us with a concern around these items, we will always work with them, because they will already have an extended warranty.

“And that’s no different to what we’ve been doing with any other customer with any other vehicle, by the way.”

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