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Ford extends warranty on Focus and Fiesta clutches; will reimburse customers for repairs

Randy Essex, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it is extending its warranty for 560,000 Focus and Fiesta cars with troubled transmissions and will reimburse owners who paid for repairs not covered by the previous warranty.

Ford said the warranty was now good for seven years or 100,000 miles on "clutch and related hardware" for 2014-16 Focus and 2014-15 Fiesta vehicles assembled after July 4, 2013. In 2014, it extended the warranty on Fiestas and Focuses built before that.

The vehicles are equipped with a dual-clutch transmission Ford called the DPS6 that was intended to provide the fuel economy and performance of a manual transmission with the operational ease of an automatic.

A Free Press investigation published last month found, through company documents and insider interviews, that Ford knew the transmissions were defective before putting them on the market and continued using them for years despite thousands of consumer complaints. Our "Out of Gear" investigation also found that Ford tentatively decided in 2011 to abandon the transmission but opted against that expensive change.

Ford said Wednesday its actions were "independent of any media or litigation," which includes a class-action case whose $35 million settlement is under review and about 13,000 other cases from vehicle owners who opted out of the class action. Former Ford CEO Mark Fields was deposed in one set of those cases last month.

"We noticed and uptick of clutch repair and out-of-pocket customer spending" among the affected vehicles, Dave Filipe, vice president of powertrain engineering, said in a conference call, citing the 2014 Focus as an example.

 

Ford declined to estimate the cost of the customer satisfaction action, saying that figure would be included in its third-quarter earnings report in October. The company in 2016 estimated that total quality spending related to DPS6 would reach $3 billion by 2020, the Free Press reported. The new cost wouldn't have been factored into that.

The transmissions, which boosted fuel economy to meet federal standards as gas prices spiked, were introduced in the 2011 model year Fiesta and 2012 Focus. They were used until the Focus was discontinued with the 2018 model year and until the 2019 Fiesta.

Ford says it believed the transmissions were sound when the vehicles were launched and insists the cars have always been safe. It acknowledges that it considered changing the transmission technology and says problems emerged after vehicles were on the road that were more complex and took longer to fix than it expected.

Ford said Wednesday that 2017-18 Focuses and 2016-19 Fiestas have the latest software and hardware, are performing well and don't require the extended warranty. The cars covered by Wednesday's announcement originally carried five-year, 60,000-mile warranties on clutch parts.

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