Action 9: Ford drivers sue automaker over transmission issues

Ford facing lawsuits over transmission issues

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ford owners say their transmissions are acting up.
 
Owners of Ford Fiesta and Focus vehicles are reporting that the transmissions on their cars seem to be having difficulty searching for the right gear before finally shifting into the correct one.

Ellen Beckett recently bought a new Fiesta, but, she said, it didn't shift smoothly. So she traded it in for a new Focus which, she said, does the same thing.  "It's just uncomfortable.  It makes me very nervous," she said.
 
Drivers Sue Ford
 
Many drivers nationally are suing the automaker over the transmission problems.  A California law firm said it's received "massive numbers of calls on these vehicles every day from across the country"  and has filed 27 lawsuits so far. A northeast law group counts more than 100 cases in 15 states.
 
"I don't understand why there can't be a recall," Beckett said.
 
No Recall
 
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn't typically discuss why it chooses not to order a recall and won't say why one hasn't been ordered for the affected Ford vehicles.

"Through NHTSA's routine pre-investigative safety defect screening work, the agency continually reviews complaints and other data to identify potential safety defect trends in vehicles," NHTSA officials told Action 9. "The agency carefully reviews and considers the nearly 60,000 consumer complaints and hundreds of recalls it receives each year and opens safety defect investigations or conducts additional analyses when the data warrant doing so. NHTSA is aware of the issue and is monitoring it closely."
 
But Center for Auto Safety expert Clarence Ditlow explained the lack of a recall this way to Action 9:  "On transmission issues, unless there's a catastrophic failure in use and the vehicle stops on the road, the [NHTSA] doesn't view it as safety-related." 
 
And, in Ford's defense, Edmunds.com expert Bill Visnic said this is not a safety-related.  He said the transmission is just more jerky than drivers expect from automatic vehicles.  "The way this transmission operates and works, which is a little bit different feel, you know, some people are just not really comfortable with," he said. 
 
Ford Responds
 
Ford knows about the problem and has upgraded the transmission software and extended the transmission's warranty from five years/ 60,000 miles to seven years/ 100,000 miles. 
 
Your Options
 
If you're upset with your Ford transmission, tell the dealer.  It should tweak the system for free.  If not, you can always sue.  Some law firms tell us they've even been able to get Ford to buy back the vehicles in some cases.