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The Federal Court has fined Ford Australia $10 million and endorsed a settlement between the carmaker and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over its handling of customer complaints about transmission issues in Fiesta, Focus and EcoSport models.
Known as a 'PowerShift' transmission, the a six-speed (dry) dual-clutch automatic and was used in the three models made between 2010 and 2016 – amounting to approximately 75,000 vehicles.
The faulty transmission resulted in delayed or harsh gear shifts and a deterioration in clutch performance.
Carsguide has been inundated for years with letters from readers who have had issues with the transmission ranging from "slipping" and "shuddering" to the vehicle becoming immobile.
While Ford found a solution to the transmission fault, which involved new clutch materials and software calibration, it was the company’s handling of customer requests from 2015 to 2016 which resulted in the fine and settlement.
"As we said from the outset of this action - we took too long to identify the issues," Ford CEO Graeme Whickman said.
"And we acknowledge that PowerShift customers did not have complaints handled appropriately between May 2015 and February 2016.
"We were overwhelmed with the volume of complaints and, while it was not intended, over a 10-month period our processes were inadequate, and information provided was either inaccurate or incomplete. We let our customers down and for that we are sorry.
"This process has identified the challenges our customers faced and the lack of appropriate processes to effectively handle these.
Ford has also agreed to implement a customer service charter and make information more accessible.
"Accepting the $10 million fine is the first action on our commitment to make right," he said.
The settlement will ensure an independent review of cases where owners of Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport models with the PowerShift transmission requested, but did not receive, a refund or no-cost replacement vehicle. Ford has pledged to provide compensation based on the reviewer’s decision.
Ford has also agreed to implement a customer service charter and make information more accessible, while upgrading the way it handles customer complaints through employee dealer and customer service training.
The PowerShift transmission was fitted in the MY 2010-2016 Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport models. From 2016 Ford ditched the Powershift in favour of a regular six-speed (torque converter) automatic in Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport models.