EDISON - Many Ford Focus and Fiesta owners across the country say their transmissions are shuddering, slipping out of gear and stalling, and no one seems able to fix the problem.
Hundreds have filed lawsuits and nearly 1,400 have complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But there are no recalls and Ford downplays the complaints, telling Kane In Your Corner that the PowerShift transmissions it used from 2011 to 2014 simply have a different "feel."
Mary Ann Bialas drives her 2012 Ford Focus 60 miles a day to and from her job in Ramsey and says it can be a scary experience.
"I never know, coming out of an intersection, whether it's going to buck or it's going to go," she says. "You hear this grinding noise, like nuts and bolts are loose."
Other Ford owners tell similar stories. Kevin McCabe of Little Falls says his Focus hesitates and occasionally stalls out in traffic. And Leo Lewis of Brick Township says his Ford Focus' transmission shudders so much that when he travels with friends, they prefer to drive because "this rattletrap scares them."
Each says they took their car to their local Ford dealership at least half a dozen times, but the automaker has been unwilling or unable to come up with a lasting solution. Bialas says Ford told her the slippage was "in the normal range," adding, "I didn't buy a car to have slippage when I go to pull out in traffic."
The NHTSA database shows 1,357 complaints nationwide about the power trains on 2011 to 2014 Ford Focus and Fiesta models. The vast majority concern allegedly faulty transmissions.
The PowerShift transmission, rolled out in 2011, is a computerized manual transmission. Ford claims it combines the gas mileage and handling of a stick shift with the convenience of an automatic. Models equipped with the PowerShift exceed 30 mpg, but the performance has drawn decidedly mixed reviews.
"It's supposed to be this dynamic driving experience," says Mike Sacks of Kimmel and Silverman, a law firm that has represented hundreds of Ford customers. "Unfortunately, what they failed to mention is the jumping, the lunging, the lurching and no solid solution."
Sacks credits Ford with attempting several fixes, including software updates. He says he believes the automaker simply has no answer.
"Ford is committed to providing our customers with top-quality vehicles," Ford representative Hallie Robinson wrote in a statement. "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, and are committed to investigating those concerns and responding to our customers."