Everything About The Ford Focus Transmission Recall Lawsuit

Ford has recently proposed a settlement for the lawsuit regarding the Ford Focus transmission recall. The company has agreed to pay millions in reimbursing the owners of the Focus and Fiesta models manufactured between 2011 and 2016. Some cars made in this period have experienced repeated transmission failures.

Ford Focus Transmission Recall: The Problems

The complaints revolved around mainly two vehicle models—the Fiestas from 2011 to 2016 and Focus from 2012 to 2016. People liked these low-priced, fuel-efficient cars, but it was a short-lived love story. The owners faced problems with these cars’ 6-speed, dual-clutch PowerShift transmission.

The owners often complained about the gearbox shuddering, hesitating, stumbling, and shifting roughly when speeding up from a stop. Many of these cars used to lose power frequently on freeways. Some of them even showed signs of premature wear. They had to repair the transmission several times, which was not enough to fix the issue. In some cases, the entire transmission system needed replacement.

ford focus transmission
The problematic dual-clutch PowerShift transmission. Cre: Terry Kosdrosky 

The transmission issues seriously affected the vehicle’s reliability and drivability. The automaker repeatedly dismissed the complaints about flawed transmission by saying that the gearbox slipping into neutral on the highway was not a safety problem.

Disgruntled car owners were not happy about the way Ford was handling the problem. It extended the warranty for the affected vehicles to 100,000 miles or 7 years, whichever comes first. In a statement, the company even claimed these vehicles ‘safe to drive’. The logic behind that statement was despite the gear slip, other functions including the brakes, power steering, and passenger retrain, continue to work.

The customers did not deem these measures enough. So, it eventually led to a lawsuit in 2012, alleging that the company had lied about the transmission problems.


Did Ford Know about the Problems?

In the course of the legal action, it has been revealed that the Ford engineers had been aware of the transmission problems before releasing the Fiesta in 2011 and Focus in 2012. A Free Press investigation unveiled that Ford bypassed the safety question concerns of the company lawyers and ignored the warning of an expert development engineer. According to internal documents, that engineer warned that those cars were not fit for the road.

The Ford management decided to ignore all warnings and go ahead. Even after receiving thousands of complaints from the customers, the company did not opt for a Ford Focus transmission recall.

Instead, Ford officials kept looking for a fix and instructed dealers to lie about the normal operation of those cars. The officials even mulled over the idea of switching to a different transmission.

There could be two possible reasons for those transmission problems.

  • Ford’s inexperience in producing dual-clutch transmission. The company had no previous experience in manufacturing this particular transmission type for the American market.
  • Using the dual-clutch design was a late decision on the management’s part and they pushed the launching on before the transmission was ready for real-world use.

The company even retreated from the idea of changing the transmission type because it was the dual-clutch design that helped those vehicles to achieve 40mpg on the highway. Plus, a new transmission would not be profitable in those low-cost cars.

The Settlement of the Transmission Recall Feud

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received at least 4,300 complaints regarding the troublesome Fiesta and Focus transmission. Many people have been injured, but no death has been connected to the defect. However, the NHTSA has not found evidence about the transmission being a safety risk.

After all these years, Ford has finally proposed a new settlement, believing it to be fair and reasonable for all parties involved. The company will distribute at least $30 million in cash reimbursement among the affected owners.

Ford Focus transmission recall
Ford agreed to pay at least $30 million to the owners. Source: Sunday Times Driving

According to the new settlement, the owners will be eligible for cash compensation and Ford’s vehicle buyback program. Based on the extent of repair work and the number of service visits, a Fiesta or Focus owner can sell their car to the company for up to $22,000. Some customers may become eligible for cash compensation of up to $250. Around 2 million customers are likely to be eligible for compensation.

Ford said that it had already spent $47.4M on the buyback program. According to an estimation, more than 1.5 million Focus and Fiesta with the defective transmission are still on the road.

Transmission Feud Aftereffect

The lawsuit involving the Ford Focus transmission recall fiasco and Ford’s murky handling of the situation hurts the launching of the 2020 Ford Aviator and Explorer. The automaker’s stock price and overall earnings also took a hit. The fiasco also resulted in the resigning of Joe Hinrichs, who was on the charge of the company’s production.