Ford’s decision to equip a dry dual clutch transmission on the Ford Fiesta and Focus wasn’t a terribly great decision. Mistreating employees and canceling plans to replace the unit weren’t exactly smart choices either. A recent report from the Detroit Free Press detailed the atmosphere within Ford before, during, and after the development of the “Powershift” dual clutch automatic, which is equipped on some two million Ford vehicles in the United States. Basically, Ford’s engineers knew the transmission would cause problems but became convinced that speaking up would result in severe reprisals, as management didn’t want the problems reaching the top.
This more recent report is far more revealing than the last piece published by the newspaper. That’s because current and former Ford employees reached out to the paper after that article was published. They described how the team almost immediately realized the transmissions would be problematic, and that their concerns were ignored or dismissed during every development phase. The initial test cars behaved exactly like the employees feared it would:
Said a seasoned mechanical expert on whom Ford depended for project direction, “I was driving a Fiesta during the launch, and it wasn’t right.”
“It couldn’t figure out what gear it wanted to be in, then it kept hesitating. That sucker would not go into any gear. The transmission revved all the way up and finally found the gear. I had to pull over and swerve so I wouldn’t get hit. It wouldn’t shift. I think it actually dropped into neutral,” he said.
“Everybody knew they had problems,” the mechanical expert said. “They were rushing into production and things weren’t ready yet.
The crux of the issue was Ford’s decision to utilize a dry clutch setup, which does not lubricate the clutches. That really seems to be the main cause of trouble for the DPS6:
“What in the world are you thinking going with a dry clutch?” one engineer asked. “The friction coefficient is inconsistent and it creates problems. But this was someone’s baby. If a manager came up with an idea, people would be afraid to say no. At first, it was just on paper. Someone should have said something. They should have. The idea should’ve been killed. No one knew how it was even considered — and then implemented — in the Focus and Fiesta.
“But they got to this point in the product development cycle where Ford realized they passed the point of no return. They spent a ton of money and here’s this giant problem,” the engineer said. “How do you solve it? They had implemented the flawed transmission and any fix was going to be super expensive.”
Reading between the lines, it seems like management didn’t want the dual clutch transmission issues to reach the top. Who was the person responsible for that decision? Possibly former CEO Mark Fields, who resigned in disgrace after trying to pin the blame for Ford’s woes on Jim Farley, a longtime Ford executive who is well loved within the company. Fields has been the only executive compelled to testify in the ongoing class action lawsuit. Unfortunately, his testimony was sealed.
I’ll have an update about my Powershift-equipped 2013 Focus in the near future. Stay tuned. And make sure to read the entire article.