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Ford Powershift back in spotlight

Focus on chip: Early warning software is being fitted to Ford small cars fitted with a troubled dual-clutch transmission to warn if a suspect transmission control chip becomes uncommunicative.

Addled transmission chip blamed in long-running Ford small car drama

17 Nov 2016

THE Ford Powershift transmission saga has taken another turn with up to 50,000 Australian owners of Ford Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport petrol-powered cars equipped with the troubled dual-clutch transmission receiving fresh letters from the company asking them to take their cars back to their dealership for another software update.

This time, the company is telling the customers that a problem has been traced to computer chip in the transmission control module.

It says the chip might develop “an electrical communication concern” that could progress to cause delayed or harsh gear changes “and ultimately loss of gear engagement while driving or inability to start the vehicle”.

These are the sort of problems Ford small car owners have been complaining about for several years, resulting in a class action by Sydney-based law firm Bannister Law on behalf of disgruntled owners of petrol-powered vehicles with the Getrag-supplied transmission sold between 2011 and 2016.

The new software does not fix the potential problem, instead triggering a dashboard warning light if it detects the defect, most likely before any symptoms surface.

If this happens, owners are asked to take their car to their dealership service department to have the transmission control module replaced.

Despite the possibility of the car stopping in traffic, Ford has again chosen to deal with the problem via a “service program”, rather than a safety recall that requires reporting the issue to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and advertising the details.

It adopted the same strategy in 2014 when it updated transmission software for the so-called “adaptive learning strategy” program that apparently was at fault on 45,000 vehicles.

In mid-2015, more than 10,000 LW Focuses were called back to dealerships to replace drive shafts that potentially could snap under acceleration. Again, this was done via a service program.

As before, the current program came to GoAuto’s attention when a reader and Ford owner forwarded a copy of the letter.

Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Wes Sherwood confirmed the program, saying it affected Powershift-equipped Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport cars.

He said Ford had been able to help many of its customers affected by transmission problems, either by replacing transmissions or other means.

The latter reportedly includes buy-back offers by Ford to some hard-pressed customers on the proviso they sign a confidentiality agreement and an indemnity from any legal action.

Mr Sherwood defended Ford’s decision to take this action by a service program, saying the problem was not a safety issue.

“It’s more about drive feel and transmission feel,” he said, adding that one of the main complaints was a shudder under acceleration.

Ford dumped the troublesome transmission in its Focus small car last year, switching to a conventional torque converter automatic as part of a facelift in September last year.

The Bannister Law class action against Ford Motor Company of Australia was initiated in May this year and is still before the Federal Court.

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