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Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it would extend warranties on roughly 560,000 Focus and Fiesta cars equipped with the PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmissions to repair the clutches for free. 

The automaker also said it will offer roughly 165,000 owners, or 16% of the group that owns the affected Focus and Fiesta vehicles in the U.S. equipped with that transmission, another chance to get a free software update. Ford said it will reimburse 2014 to 2016 model-year Focus customers and 2014 to 2015 model-year Fiesta customers covered under the newly extended warranty for any clutch repairs they paid for out-of-pocket.

Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of car owners unhappy with the transmissions, known internally as the DPS6. Dual-clutch gearboxes like the the DPS6 typically shift rougher than other automatic gearboxes that North American drivers are accustomed to, which caused customer dissatisfaction with the earlier models. The Ford transmissions also needed frequent repairs for quality issues the developed over time with the clutch and clutch seals, among other things.

"We acted right away to resolve the issues," said Dave Filipe, Ford vice president of powertrain engineering. "Customers were inconvenienced and frustrated, which we regret."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found no evidence that the transmissions are a safety risk.

The automaker on Wednesday extended the clutch warranty to seven years or 100,000 miles on certain models, the same extension the automaker gave past models. The automaker said with the actions announced Wednesday, all Focus and Fiesta vehicles on the road in the U.S. and Canada will have the latest component and software updates for the transmission.

Ford extended the warranty and planned to again reach out to customers for the software update after the automaker received data showing an uptick in Focus and Fiesta customers paying out-of-pocket for clutch repairs in recent months, according to Filipe.

"Ford understands and regrets that many customers have been inconvenienced and frustrated by the performance of the DPS6 transmission," said Filipe in a Wednesday statement. "Earning and keeping the trust of customers is vital to everything we do. That is why Ford and its dealers have gone to great lengths to improve the performance of the transmission. While these vehicles always were and remain safe to drive, we regret the inconvenience our customers have experienced."

The Detroit Free Press has reported that Ford knew the transmissions were faulty, and two U.S. senators called for a federal investigation into those allegations.

Ford has pushed back against those allegations. The automaker has said repeatedly that the transmission works for customers, and the vehicles are safe to drive. Ford has also made a series of moves since 2013 to address repairs that came up after the vehicle launched.

NHTSA, having received thousands of complaints about the vehicles, has not opened an investigation into the transmission or issued a recall due to the transmission. The transmission hasn't been tied to any injury or death. Owners mostly report the transmission "slipping" or "stuttering." 

NHTSA said Wednesday that it reviewed complaints about the transmissions and other data and "has not found evidence of an unreasonable risk to safety," according to the Associated Press.

Ford built the clutch for 2011 Ford Fiesta and 2012 Ford Focus vehicles. It was meant to boost fuel economy, as gas prices were expected then to climb above $4 per gallon, Filipe said. The dual-clutch system shifted more like a manual, which left many customers unsatisfied.

The clutch also had other problems with certain pieces that called for pricey repairs. 

Ford said it fixed the clutches for those vehicles built in late 2015 for the 2016 model year. The repairs and software updates covered by the warranty extended Wednesday would effectively bring the older Focus and Fiesta vehicles up to par with the newer vehicles, which Ford meet Ford's customer satisfaction standards, the automaker said.

The automaker settled a $35 million class-action lawsuit in the U.S. that would have it pay current or former owners or lessees of a 2011-16 Ford Fiesta or 2012-16 Ford Focus vehicles up to $2,325 to cover repair costs or up to $4,650 for the purchase of a new vehicle. The automaker paid out millions in Thailand and Australia for consumer issues tied to the transmission.

In February 2018, an appeal filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit argued that that the $35 million settlement was too lenient, and called for the settlement to be vacated.

ithibodeau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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