With Ford Australia refuting the claims made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), it sets up a nasty battle that leaves affected consumers caught in the cross fire.
The basis of the original claims pertained to ongoing faults with the PowerShift Transmission (PST) on Ford’s Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport vehicles supplied between 2011 and 2016.
The findings by the ACCC found that about half of the 70,000 vehicles sold had at least one repair associated with the PST within their vehicle’s gearbox. Many of the complaints noted excessive shuddering and jerking when accelerating, loss of gear selection and sudden loss of power and/or excessive noisiness from the PST.
“The ACCC alleges that Ford misrepresented to customers who made complaints that the issues with their vehicles were caused by the way the driver handled the vehicle, even though Ford was aware of systemic issues with the vehicles from at least 2013,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
The consumer watchdog claimed that in most cases Ford refused to provide a refund or a replacement vehicle unless customers participated in the Powershift Ownership Loyalty Program by making a substantial payment for a replacement vehicle, which was on average $7,000. In turn, customers that couldn’t afford those costs felt they had no option but to continue driving their vehicles.
“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,” Mr Sims said.
It was claimed that some customers tried to take their car in for repairs up to seven times, but were rejected a refund or replacement vehicle. In its response, Ford has sought to clarify the ongoing issues and provide assurance that the needs of consumers are being met.
“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,” Graeme Whickman, Ford President & CEO Ford Motor Company, Australia said.
“As each of these issues has been identified, the Ford team has investigated and worked with customers to implement manufacturing and repair solutions. We have always worked to provide the best possible customer outcomes, in a transparent manner.”
Despite the ACCC launching Federal Court Action against Ford, the car giant noted that it would work alongside the consumer watchdog throughout proceedings.
“Whilst we strongly refute the ACCC allegations and will challenge them, we will work with them wherever needed to help provide certainty about the application of Australian Consumer Law for our industry,” Mr Whickman added.
“Our focus right now is on continuing to get the latest specification clutch to our customers so they can enjoy their vehicles as intended.”
Ford said that over 12,000 affected customers had already had their vehicles updated, and that all new cars on the market have the latest updates installed by default.
Members that have concerns about their vehicle are encouraged to call their dealer or Ford Australia directly on 13FORD or by visiting their website.