U.S. fraud pros­e­cu­tors de­mand Ford Fo­cus Fi­esta doc­u­ments

Lodi News-Sentinel - - BUSINESS - By Phoebe Wall Howard

U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice crim­i­nal fraud in­ves­ti­ga­tors have de­manded doc­u­ments re­lated to the trans­mis­sion used in about 2 mil­lion Ford Fi­esta and Fo­cus ve­hi­cles sold through­out this decade, the Free Press has learned.

The Free Press ob­tained a sub­poena is­sued in April in Case No. 126 be­fore a Dis­trict of Columbia grand jury re­quest­ing “all doc­u­ments, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and elec­tron­i­cally stored in­for­ma­tion” re­lat­ing to the com­pany’s ac­tions in­volv­ing the DPS6 Pow­erShift trans­mis­sion dat­ing to 2010. It asked for ma­te­rial that might show whether the com­pany knew the trans­mis­sions were de­fec­tive and couldn’t be fixed or that it lied to fed­eral safety reg­u­la­tors.

Ford spokesman Said Deep de­clined to say whether the com­pany had re­ceived a sub­poena.

“Ford rou­tinely co­op­er­ates with all fed­eral, state and lo­cal reg­u­la­tory and other au­thor­i­ties and, as has long been a mat­ter of pub­lic record, has in par­tic­u­lar co­op­er­ated with the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NHTSA) as to DPS6-re­lated is­sues be­gin­ning in 2014,” Deep said in a pre­pared state­ment. “Ford has taken a num­ber of ac­tions to en­hance trans­mis­sion per­for­mance and the ex­pe­ri­ence of our cus­tomers in­clud­ing ex­tend­ing war­ranties for cus­tomers from five years/60,000 miles to seven years/100,000.”

Peter Carr, spokesman for the De­part­ment of Jus­tice, de­clined to com­ment.

The in­quiry fo­cuses on the du­al­clutch trans­mis­sions used in the en­try-level, fuel-ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cles, 1.5 mil­lion of which re­main on the road. A Free Press in­ves­ti­ga­tion pub­lished in July found, through com­pany doc­u­ments and in­sider in­ter­views, that Ford knew the trans­mis­sions were de­fec­tive be­fore putting them on the mar­ket and con­tin­ued us­ing them for years de­spite thou­sands of con­sumer com­plaints. Our “Out of Gear” in­ves­ti­ga­tion also found that Ford ten­ta­tively de­cided in 2011 to aban­don the trans­mis­sion but opted against that ex­pen­sive change.

Many of the ve­hi­cles shud­der, some­times vi­o­lently, and can shift er­rat­i­cally and lurch un­pre­dictably. The trans­mis­sions are de­signed to de­fault to neu­tral in some cases when the trans­mis­sion isn’t op­er­at­ing prop­erly. When that hap­pens, driv­ers lose ac­cel­er­a­tion wher­ever they are. Con­sumers have filed more than 4,300 com­plaints with fed­eral reg­u­la­tors that in­clude re­ports of 50 in­juries, but both Ford and reg­u­la­tors say the ve­hi­cles do not pose an un­rea­son­able risk and the cars have never been re­called for trans­mis­sion re­pair.

Ford also has dis­closed to fed­eral se­cu­ri­ties reg­u­la­tors that it faces sub­stan­tial risk from a class-ac­tion law­suit whose $35 mil­lion set­tle­ment is un­der re­view and in about 13,000 other cases from ve­hi­cle own­ers who opted out of the class ac­tion.

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