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ACCC targets Ford over PowerShift auto transmissions

Australia's consumer watchdog has taken legal action against Ford over its problem-riddled PowerShift transmissions.

The Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has commenced legal proceedings against Ford Motor Company of Australia over the handling of the car-maker's trouble-plagued PowerShift transmission.

The ACCC has alleged unconscionable and misleading or deceptive conduct over vehicles sold with the PowerShift dry-clutch transmission in Australia between 2011 and 2016.

The regulator also alleges Ford made false or misleading representations in its response to customer complaints about the transmissions fitted to about 70,000 Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport vehicles.

Ford Australia vehemently denies the charges and says it will challenge them in Federal Court.

Repairs are available for all PowerShift transmission issues and all new vehicles on sale today are built with the latest updates.

The company's president and CEO Graeme Whickman said that while Ford strongly refuted the allegations, the company would work with the ACCC "wherever needed to help provide certainty about the application of Australian consumer law for our industry". 
 
"Our focus right now is on continuing to get the latest specification clutch to our customers so they can enjoy their vehicles as intended," he said.

Ford Australia concedes that problems have arisen with the PowerShift transmission (PST) on certain vehicles.

"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," Mr Whickman said in a statement.
 
"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."

About half of the 70,000 Ford vehicles sold with the dual-clutch automatic had at least one repair relating to issues surrounding the transmission according to the ACCC.

The ACCC alleges that Ford’s conduct towards customers who had complained of issues with their vehicles was unconscionable.

The ACCC said in a media statement: "Customers made complaints to Ford and its dealers about their car's excessive shuddering and jerking when accelerating, loss of gear selection and sudden loss of power and/or excessive noisiness from the PST.

"From 2011 to May 2015, Ford allegedly refused to provide a refund or replacement vehicle to consumers, even after vehicles had undergone multiple repairs that had not fixed the issue.

"In most cases, Ford only provided replacement vehicles in accordance with its PowerShift Ownership Loyalty Program, which required consumers to make a significant payment towards a replacement vehicle."

According to the ACCC, payment was typically about $7000 and that owners who could not afford that amount had little option but to continue to use their vehicle.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said that Ford misrepresented to customers who made complaints that the issues were caused by the way the driver handled the vehicle, despite being aware of systemic problems with the vehicles from at least 2013.

"The ACCC alleges that Ford’s conduct towards customers who had complained of issues with their vehicles was unconscionable," he said.

"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."

As mentioned earlier, Ford has vehemently denied, and intends to challenge, the ACCC's allegations.

The ACCC says it is, amongst other things seeking injunctions, monetary penalties, consumer redress orders and corrective advertising from Ford.

A civil class action was launched against the company over this issue last year and is currently before the federal court.

Was your vehicle affected by Ford's PowerShift transmission problems? Tell us in the comments below.

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