Another PowerShift Transmission Lawsuit: Will It Cost Ford More Millions?

The ongoing saga of Ford PowerShift automatic transmission problems continues to get worse for the Dearborn automaker. Having lost one class-action lawsuit that cost it millions to buy back affected vehicles, it now faces another class-action lawsuit for the flawed transmission. This time it is for newer vehicles running the transmission. Newer models, the same bad transmission that Ford knew was no good. Here’s what we know.

What did the previous Ford transmission lawsuit involve?

2017 Ford Fiesta
2017 Ford Fiesta | Ford

The first wave of lawsuits dealt with the 2011 to 2016 Fiesta and 2012 to 2016 Focus cars. A second, smaller lawsuit also cost Ford millions of dollars. This new round concerns the newer 2017 to 2019 Ford Fiesta and 2017 to 2018 Focus. 

The problems affecting the PowerShift transmissions include shuddering and bucking, jerking, slipping gears, and hesitations during gear changes. Beyond these common issues, there are also plenty of reports of the loss of Drive or lurching forward when taking off from a stoplight. Even with the brakes applied, the lawsuit alleges the cars can still lurch forward.

Did Ford try to fix the transmission issues?

2017 Ford Focus
2017 Ford Focus | Ford

Ford serviced many of the transmissions to try and correct the problems owners were facing. Clutch replacement, sometimes done numerous times for a single car, and other fixes did little to cure the issues. Ford also extended transmission warrantees to try and cover the ongoing PowerShift problems. Ford issued numerous technical service bulletins to address problems owners were having.

Some experts attribute the problems to the dry clutch design of the transmission. Typically, dry clutch automatic transmissions tend to exhibit harsher gear engagement than traditional wet clutch units. That’s because a dry clutch has no fluid around it. The fluid helps to lubricate and facilitates smoother shifts.

“The Transmission Defect is caused by design, material, manufacturing, and/or workmanship defects of the transmission’s “dry” clutches system which cause clutches to overheat and fail, as well as damage other transmission components,” the lawsuit alleges. “Moreover, the Transmission Defect may be exacerbated by improper programming in the Transmission Control Module (“TCM”), the computer which controls the automatic shifting of the Powershift Transmission.”

What’s the difference between a dry clutch and wet clutch transmission?

2017 Ford Fiesta
2017 Ford Fiesta | Ford

The advantage of a dry clutch is that there is no fluid drag on the internal components. So there is less power loss. But without lubrication, a dry clutch transmission is typically louder, shifts harsher, and wears out quicker than a fluid clutch transmission. 

The real problem was that Ford knew its PowerShift transmissions were having problems even before regular production models began rolling out of its plants. The Detroit Free Press conducted an investigation revealing Ford’s reports. According to the Freep, internal reports revealed everything wrong that drivers were experiencing. Yet, Ford went ahead installing these automatic transmissions in its cars.

Once exposed, the lawsuits began. But that wasn’t all. In Australia, “unconscionable conduct” forced Ford to pay $10,000. So with previous lawsuits stopping at 2016, it was expected there would be a new lawsuit.

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