Between 2011 and 2016, around 70,000 Ford Fiesta, Focus and EcoSport vehicles sold in Australia were fitted with the company's PowerShift dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Dual-cluch 'boxes are meant to provide faster, smoother shifts than traditional automatics, but the ACCC says that nearly half of all Aussie cars have needed at least one significant transmission repair — and it's taking Ford to court for it.
According to the ACCC, of the approximately 70,000 cars sold, about half have had a gearbox repair of some sort, with excessive shuddering and jerking under acceleration, loss of gears, loss of power and excessive noisiness the most common complaints.
The ACCC alleges that Ford did not provide refunds or replacement vehicles to customers between 2011 and May 2015, even after some of their cars had undergone multiple repairs that still did not resolve the issue. It also says that in most cases customers were required to make "a significant payment" towards replacement cars in the order of $7000 on average, and that cars traded in were on-sold to wholesalers and other customers without disclosing the existing issues and repairs.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims says that Ford told customers their complaints were caused by the way they'd been driving, even though the company was "aware of systemic issues" from at least 2013. Says Sims: "The ACCC alleges that Ford’s conduct towards customers who had complained of issues with their vehicles was unconscionable. 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."
A class action from Bannister Law already exists on behalf of some Ford owners, and several Facebook groups are active with thousands of members. The ACCC is pursuing Ford for "declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, consumer redress orders, corrective advertising, and compliance program obligations."
Update: Ford has released a statement saying that it strongly refutes the ACCC's allegations, and that it will challenge them. It says it's proactively reached out to "the most affected" customers to repair their cars with the latest specification clutch unit free of charge, and that depending on circumstances it's also provided full refunds or replacement vehicles to buyers.
Here's a statement from Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman: "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. 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."
CarAdvice has a long-running trend of readers complaining about their PowerShift transmissions, and has a significant explainer on what customers should do — and what their rights are under the Australian Consumer Law. [ACCC]