Car Industry

Ford's Fiesta, Focus transmission troubles attract NHTSA's attention, report says

Several members of congress are pushing for a NHTSA investigation into Ford's handling of customer issues with its PowerShift transmissions.

Ford's Focus and Fiesta models have been plagued by serious issues with their PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Roadshow

Way back in 2009, Ford's new Fiesta hit dealer showrooms across the US. It was the first Fiesta to hit the US in decades and it looked better than ever, and its fuel economy figures were seriously impressive. That latter attribute was thanks in large part to their new and innovative dual-clutch automatic transmissions, which Ford called PowerShift, and referred to internally as DPS6.

Here we are 10 years later, and those transmissions are proving to be a massive thorn in not only owners' sides, but increasingly they're becoming an issue for the mothership back in Dearborn. The problems with the transmission include many reports from owners that it will drop into neutral between gears, leading to a lack of acceleration. Other reports state that the cars will lurch forward and shift jerkily.

These issues are so prevalent, and Ford's reaction to owners' complaints have reportedly been so unsatisfactory, that now the US government is looking at getting involved.

Several Democratic congressmen -- including Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who is on the committee that oversees the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- have called for a review of the ongoing situation, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Ford dealers interviewed by the Free Press stated that they hadn't received clear instructions on how to handle customer concerns going forward, or how (or whether) to charge customers for transmission repairs to their PowerShift-equipped vehicles.

Ford's representatives stated that the company had issued a service bulletin explaining how to handle the increased number of customer concerns and informed dealers that affected vehicles brought in before July 19 would receive extended warranty coverage, something it's done before for individual components of the transmission. The bulletin promised further communication on or around the 19th, but to our knowledge, no new bulletins have been issued.

"The DPS6 transmission was all-new technology from Getrag when it was introduced nearly a decade ago to improve fuel economy in Fiesta and Focus models. We launched those vehicles in good faith -- like others, only after they reached key development milestones. Quality issues emerged after they were on the road," Ford representatives said in a statement. 

"We acted quickly and determinedly to address those issues. Resolving them took longer than we expected -- that frustrated and was inconvenient for many customers, some still today, which we regret. Along the way, we have rightly gone to great lengths to correct the problems: understanding what caused them, alerting dealers and consumers, recommending and making repairs, and extending warranties. In the meantime, automobiles using the DPS6 transmission were and remain safe to drive."

Given the likely cost of each individual repair, combined with the sheer number of vehicles equipped with the faulty gearboxes around the US, a forced recall by NHTSA would likely be a very, very expensive proposition for Ford.

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Originally published at 12:08 p.m. PT.
Update, 1:40 p.m. PT: Adds statement from Ford.