Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An American car company launches a car with persistent quality issues and fails to adequately address the problem. Eventually, it becomes known that the company knew of the problems all along and instead of doing the right thing, fights tooth and nail to suppress the seriousness of the situation. Welcome to the current state of the ongoing saga involving Ford’s Powershift dual clutch transmission.
The Detroit Free Press published an extremely thorough report on Ford’s problems with their infamous dual clutch transmission, and the results are damning. The company knew the transmission was problematic years before its introduction, and various individuals worked hard to cover up the extent of the issues. From the report:
A high-level, confidential analysis by Ford in 2012 acknowledged rushing the cars to production, taking shortcuts to save money and apparently compromising quality protocols instituted with fanfare by then-CEO Alan Mulally. That review, obtained by the Free Press, also said the transmissions would be phased out and a different technology used going forward, but that didn’t happen. The Focus went out of production after the 2018 model year; the 2019 Fiesta is the last of the line.
By the time of the 2012 review, which was labeled “Lessons Learned,” Ford had sold more than half a million of the cars.
“There is no fix at this time,” system testing engineer Tom Hamm wrote separately in an October 2012 email to four colleagues. “We have a task force working on the issue but they haven’t identified any fixes at this time.”
Time and time again, the Detroit Three rushed to introduce a new technology to market that repeatedly failed to meet internal quality standards, yet they did it anyway. The song remains the same:
Ford’s 2012 review showed that things went south from the start. The transmission architecture was selected 12 months later than normal — “limiting up-front engineering development time, resulting in ‘open’ deliverables at key program milestones,” the report said, citing compression of program approval, prototype verification, launch readiness and mass production.
“At each early checkpoint, it became more apparent” that the transmission systems for the 2011 Fiesta program “were not capable to meet customer expectations,” the review said.
The whole report is worth a read, as it details the extreme corporate dysfunction within the company, the push to stiff dealers on warranty reimbursement, and the horrible treatment owners got when they complained of problems.
Former CEO Mark Fields is slated to testify later this month. Hopefully this investigation leads to some sort of settlement for Fiesta and Focus owners.
“Ford knew Focus, Fiesta models had flawed transmission, sold them anyway” Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press