Ford proposes $30M-plus settlement in transmission suit

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Ford Motor Co. has proposed a $30 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit regarding faulty transmissions Focus and Fiesta vehicles it no longer sells in the U.S.

Multiple lawsuits, including a class-action suit that began in April 2017, have been filed on behalf of car owners unhappy with the transmissions, known internally as the DPS6.

Dual-clutch gearboxes like the DPS6 typically shift rougher than other automatic gearboxes to which North American drivers are accustomed. The Ford transmissions also needed frequent repairs for quality issues the developed over time with the clutch and clutch seals, among other things.

The 2014 Ford Focus

Ford spokesman T.R. Reid said the company believes the settlement is “fair and reasonable” and expects it to be approved at the hearing on Feb. 28.

"It's an amendment to a 2017 lawsuit that has been proposed to the court and we anticipate it'll be approved at the hearing next month," he said. "There has been a variety of back and forth since then and we believe the amount is fair."

The lawsuit represents nearly 2 million people who own or formerly owned a 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta or 2012-2016 Ford Focus. In addition to the $30 million in cash reimbursement, there will be an easier process for people to get compensated and a buyback program for defective vehicles, according to the Associated Press.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found no evidence that the transmissions are a safety risk. Lawsuits allege Ford knew the transmissions were faulty before the vehicles went to market, but no judge or jury has ruled that to be true.

In December, Ford was ordered to pay $23,000 to the owners of a 2014 Ford Focus for violating consumer protection laws. Plaintiffs, Salvador and Yvonne Quintero, told a federal court of the Central District of California that their Focus, which was leased through 2017, had problems with the dual-clutch PowerShift Transmission that "caused them to feel unsafe." It was the same transmission Ford extended warranties in August on 560,000 vehicles to cover.

Judge Andre Birotte Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, threw out the fraud claims against Ford in the Quintero case.

The automaker has previously pushed back against allegations in lawsuits that it knew the transmissions were faulty, or that they ever made those Ford vehicles dangerous to drive. Ford has said repeatedly that the transmission works, and the vehicles are safe to drive. The transmission hasn't been tied to any injury or death. Owners mostly report the transmission "slipping" or "stuttering." 

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 9th Circuit argued that that the $35 million settlement was too lenient, and called for the settlement to be vacated.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_