Turd of the Week: Ford Fiesta

Car Talk Car Complaints

Car Talk Car Complaints | Jan 15, 2016

By Jim Travers

With all due respect to Lionel Richie, it’s hard to be in the mood to fiesta all night long when you’re having car trouble. And it’s even harder when you’re stuck at home with a broken Fiesta.

The digital mailbox over at CarComplaints.com has been overflowing with complaints from Ford Fiesta and Focus owners lately, who were unfortunate enough to opt for Ford’s PowerShift six-speed automatic transmission. Actually, more of an automated manual, the complicated transmission does the clutching and shifting for you, and was touted as being more fuel-efficient than a conventional automatic when Ford rolled it out on the Fiesta in 2011. It also weighs less than a regular automatic.  Ford later subjected the Focus to the PowerShift with the 2012 model year.

The problem is that even on a good day, riding in a PowerShift-equipped Ford feels like being with somebody on their first day of learning how to drive a stick. It lurches, it jerks, it grinds, and it shakes - and not in the fiesta-like fashion that Lionel had in mind. Eventually, the PowerShift tends to sit out the party forever. And that can cost thousands.

“We purchased a 2011 Ford Fiesta in October 2015 from our neighbor, who kept meticulous care and service records on the vehicle,” writes Katyny of Plattsburgh, N.Y. “The vehicle was always dealer serviced and had been in for the transmission service bulletins. Within 60 days of owning the vehicle the transmission failed. The dealer now reports we need a new transmission: $6,500 + tax. We have been told by both the dealer and Ford corporate that we are 1,400 miles over warranty at 61,400 miles, so there is no financial assistance with the repair.”

As Katyny points out, there have been some service bulletins on the PowerShift. In fact there have been a stack of them. A quick look at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website www.safercar.gov will reveal more than you’d probably care to read, pertaining to various shudders, leaks and grinding noises. There are also hundreds of owner complaints. But there have been no recalls.

Is a recall in store for this 2013 Ford Fiesta? (Photo by David Villarreal Fernández)

Ford did issue a warranty extension for PowerShift-equipped vehicles in 2014, to seven years or 100,000 miles. But as another frustrated owner DRC of Alexandria, V.A., points out, that may not be enough to fix the problem.

“The 2014 Ford Focus and, as I understand it, the rest of the new model generation from 2012 on, is literally un-fixable. It literally cannot be fixed. There is a design flaw in the dual-clutch automatic transmission that renders the whole system unable to function properly... ever. It's not a broken part that can be replaced.”

Lindsay A. of Columbus, G.A. is slightly more hopeful.

“Clutch will be in in about eight weeks. Asked service advisor what the deal seems to be since I read this website prior to dropping off car. He stated the clutch is an issue and Ford has redesigned them about five times and this last rework seems to be working and that is why the part is on backorder. We will see.”

We e-mailed Ford to ask about whether a recall will be forthcoming, or maybe there’s a permanent fix to really give these owners something to party about, and they sent the following statement:

Ford is committed to providing our customers with top-quality vehicles. Ford's PowerShift automated-manual transmission uses an advanced configuration that provides exceptional powertrain efficiency, along with a potential for unique shift-feel compared to conventional automatics.

We take customer concerns seriously. We have taken action to ensure customer satisfaction, including updating the transmission software and providing an extended warranty for the transmission control module, clutches and transmission input shaft seals. In many cases, customers have already received notification of these programs; we are in the process of notifying our remaining customers.

And for those of you unlucky enough to have a malfunctioning Fiesta, we hope this will cheer you up:

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