— Ford Fiesta and Focus transmission problems were allegedly covered up by Ford as the automaker blamed customers for the issues while knowing the PowerShift transmissions were defective.
In a report from the Detroit Free Press, internal documents prove Ford knew the transmissions required expensive changes to fix the problems, yet each year the automaker ignored reality to pad its Fiesta and Focus profit margins.
Ford's PowerShift transmissions are supposed to be the perfect combination of manual and automatic transmissions. A manual transmission uses a clutch controlled by the driver when shifting gears, a process known as more fuel efficient and quicker than an automatic transmission.
An automatic uses a torque converter filled with fluid to power the transmission from the engine. But Ford marketed the dual-clutch PowerShift transmissions as providing the fuel economy of a manual transmission with the convenience of an automatic.
Although similar transmissions use clutches kept wet by oil, Ford's Fiesta and Focus transmissions use dry clutches that don't have oil pumps. According to hundreds of lawsuits, customers complain the dry clutch plates and other components suffer from premature wear and cause the transmissions to slip, jerk and finally fail.
The report also indicates Ford's own lawyers were worried in 2008 about safety issues related to the transmissions and how problems could be multiplied by using the transmissions in high-volume low-priced Fiestas and Focus cars.
According to the Free Press report, the 2011 Ford Fiesta allegedly suffered so many problems that 115 software changes were made before the cars were ever sold to the public. According to internal Ford documents, transmission problems continued to increase as the launch date for the Fiesta neared.
However, Ford noted that transmission alternatives in the low-profit low-cost Fiesta would add too much additional costs and decrease fuel economy.
The Free Press report says a former Ford engineer admitted the automaker didn't have a problem jumping on transmission problems that popped up on high-profit models, taking whatever actions were needed to quickly fix the issues. But the engineer said the PowerShift transmission problems were treated the exact opposite and customer complaints were typically ignored.
Ford has never issued a recall for the PowerShift transmission problems even though customer complaints were filed within months of the launch of the 2011 Fiesta.
In the midst of questions about the reliability of the DPS6 transmissions, documents show Ford argued even if the transmissions caused certain problems, the vehicles were safe and customers had nothing to worry about. Internal documents show Ford didn't believe there were serious safety problems because steering and power continued to function even if the transmissions unintentionally shifted into NEUTRAL.
But this belief contradicted customers who claimed their Fiesta or Focus vehicles were in collisions caused by vehicles that suddenly lost motive power. Many customers reported their vehicles were struck from behind when the transmissions malfunctioned, then those customers were told they didn't know how to properly drive the vehicles.
In one internal email, faulty PowerShift transmissions were blamed for warranty expenses of $700 million, an amount Ford said needed to be cut because of the damage to profit margins. Other internal emails show Ford dealers complained to the manufacturer about a neverending supply of customers complaining about the transmissions.
Documents indicate the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration contacted Ford in 2014 and asked about the transmission complaints. Ford allegedly responded by saying the problems occurred as the cars got older, a claim contradicted by Ford telling customers the transmissions were new and just needed to be "broken in."
In addition to thousands of customer complaints, at least 50 injuries are allegedly related to the transmission problems even though the automaker has always said the cars and their transmissions were safe.
The damage to Ford's corporate checkbook was mentioned in an internal document that estimated Ford would lose $3 billion by 2020 due to quality-related issues with the transmissions.
And Ford also warned investors about the possible financial consequences of hundreds of lawsuits filed about the transmissions and the possibility of civil penalties and vehicle buyback costs.
Ford responded to the Free Press report by claiming choices about the transmissions were based on what was best for customers.
Read about some of the multiple legal actions taken against Ford over the PowerShift transmissions.