Ford has been hammered by Fiesta and Focus owners, as well as multiple law firms, due to its troublesome Powershift transmission. The six-speed, dual-clutch gearbox has forced customers into hefty repair bills and extended periods of downtime, which led several thousand to initiate legal action against the Blue Oval. This process came to a head on Thursday, when a federal judge approved a class-action settlement that will result in Ford repurchasing defective vehicles for as much as $22,000 apiece, reports the Detroit Free Press.
Vehicles equipped with the faulty Powershift transmission include 2011-2016 Fiestas and 2012-2016 Focuses—those fitted with manual gearboxes, of course, are excluded from the list. Owners of these cars reported "shuddering, slipping, bucking, jerking, hesitation while changing gears, premature internal wear, delays in downshifting and, in some cases, sudden or delayed acceleration." These problems have allegedly persisted long after Ford's powertrain warranty expires, with some supposedly replacing as many as four transmissions in their Fiesta or Focus.
A previous investigation performed by the Detroit Free Press found that Ford knowingly sold these cars with defective transmissions. This played into the hands of those seeking restitution, with the first lawsuit being issued in 2012 by Los Angeles-based Capstone Partners APC.
"You could see where this settlement could end up costing Ford hundreds of millions of dollars, potentially $500 million," said Michael Kirkpatrick, a lawyer at the nonprofit Public Citizen consumer advocacy group, to the Detroit Free Press. Kirkpatrick fought against Ford and the class-action law firm to allow another review of the case last year and provide a better payout for affected consumers.
Fiesta and Focus owners will reportedly have seven months from the order to file a buyback claim, although some could possibly have until the year 2023, a lead counsel of the case explained.
Ford initiated a voluntary buyback program in 2019 and explained in court documents that it had paid out approximately $47 million while repurchasing some 2,666 vehicles. According to what consumers have explained to lawyers, most of these buybacks ranged from $15,000 to $22,000. Combined with warranty repairs and replacements, Ford wrote in its 2016 internal report that spending related to its Powershift transmission woes "could reach $3 billion."
Those involved with the case claim that "about 100,000" vehicles suffered serious problems related to the flawed equipment. However, around 1.5 million cars fitted with a Powershift transmission are still on the road today. Even with these statistics, it's nearly impossible to estimate the cost on Ford's behalf as it depends on how many owners file claims.
Following the federal judge's final say on Thursday, Ford spokesman Said Deep explained in a statement, "We are pleased with the court’s ruling and look forward to the final implementation of the settlement."
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