Senators want probe of faulty Ford transmissions

Keith Laing
The Detroit News
2016 Ford Fiesta

Washington — Two U.S. senators are calling for a federal investigation into allegations that Ford Motor Co. knowingly sold Fiesta and Focus vehicles with transmission problems that caused them to randomly move into neutral and decelerate on highways in some cases. 

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should launch an immediate probe into "Ford’s systematic efforts to hide transmission safety defects and mislead consumers to buy faulty cars."

"Ford knowingly put American families and children at risk – this indifference to safety is inexcusable," the senators said. "NHTSA must take the thousands of complaints it has received from scared consumers seriously and immediately open a defect investigation into the Ford Fiesta and Focus vehicles to identify how deep Ford’s lies are buried.”

The vehicles at issue were subject to a 2017 settlement that saw Ford agree to pay up to $2,325 to owners of 2012-2016 Focus vehicles or 2011-2016 Fiesta models. The company was not required to admit liability in the settlement. 

The call for an investigation follows a report from The Detroit Free Press that revealed internal documents showing Ford knowingly sold sedans with faulty dual-clutch transmissions prone to randomly shifting into neutral. The problems with the transmissions, known internally at Ford as DSP6, resulted in cars decelerating or bolting forward at highway speeds, according to consumer complaints.  

Ford says the car are safe.  

“Automobiles using the DPS6 transmission were and remain safe to drive," a Ford spokesman said in a statement. "Ford’s work and comments on these vehicles have always been thorough and truthful." 

A review of records available on NHTSA's website showed numerous complaints about Fiesta and Focus transmissions.  "While accelerating after a stop light, the transmission shuddered violently before 'kicking into gear' and accelerating like expected," an owner of a 2011 Fiesta wrote in a comment posted to the NHTSA website July 12.

Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for auto safety regulations, applauded the senators for calling for an investigation.

"Now it’s time for NHTSA, the SEC and the FTC to open investigations and get to the bottom of what’s going on here," he said.