At a time when large auto companies can scarcely afford another high-profile scandal in the Australian market, Ford has unfortunately stepped out of line.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has made claims that of the Ford Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport models sold in Australia and fitted with a Powershift gearbox, around 50% were fitted with a faulty gearbox. The ACCC has also claimed that despite knowing of consistent issues with the component, Ford instead attempted to shift blame onto their customers.
"The ACCC alleges that Ford misrepresented to customers who made complaints that the issues with their vehicles were caused by the way the driver handled the vehicle, even though Ford was aware of systemic issues with the vehicles from at least 2013," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
About half of the Ford Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport vehicles with a PowerShift transmission sold between 2011 and 2016 have required at least one significant repair, with gearboxes shuddering, jerking, losing power, and making grinding sounds. In efforts to solve the problem, some customers were going in for repairs up to seven times.
In what Mr Sims described as "the most serious allegation", Ford is accused of taking the surrendered vehicles and re-selling them to unsuspecting new buyers without disclosing the car's transmission issues.
"The ACCC is alarmed about the level of non-compliance with the Australian consumer law in the new car industry," Sims said.
"Cars are the second-most expensive purchase most consumers will ever make and if they fail to meet a consumer guarantee, people are automatically entitled to a remedy."
Ford has made a public statement denying the charges, however. The chief executive of Ford Motor Company Australia, Graeme Whickman, said that Ford complied completely with Australian consumer law.
"We acknowledge that some customers had a poor experience when the clutch shudder issues on the PowerShift transmission first came to light and we are sorry for this... [but] we've continued to improve our response times to customers and have been repairing vehicles, compensating customers, and depending on the circumstances, providing full refunds and providing replacement vehicles."