A federal judge has approved a class-action settlement.
The ongoing saga of defective transmissions installed in the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus appears to have entered a new and potentially final phase. According to media reports, including the Detroit Free Press, a federal judge late last week approved a class-action settlement that will see Ford repurchase thousands of vehicles for upwards of $22,000 apiece. Details of the settlement are only now being released as lawyers make a final deal with Ford.
Michael Kirkpatrick, an attorney who works for the non-profit consumer advocacy group called Public Citizen, claims the settlement could cost Ford upwards of $500 million. Kirkpatrick previously successfully fought against the initial $35 million settlement because it worked in financial favor of the lawyers, not the plaintiffs. The settlement was overturned.
If you recall, the case involves the 2012-2016 Focus and 2011-2016 Fiesta models equipped with the DPS6 transmission. This gearbox was prone to "shuddering, slipping, bucking, jerking, hesitation while changing gears, premature internal wear, delays in downshifting, and in some cases, sudden or delayed acceleration."
In response to the new ruling, Ford spokesman Said Deep said that "We are pleased with the court's ruling and look forward to the final implementation of the settlement." The lead attorney representing the plaintiffs, Ryan Wu, says this has been an eight-year saga to hold Ford accountable for these transmission issues and that the automaker could wind up spending at least $100 million for buybacks alone.
Another piece of good news for owners is that there's still plenty of time to seek compensation from Ford. They will have at least seven months from the date of the settlement to file a buyback claim. Some may even have until 2023 to do so.
Previously, Ford spent $47 million buying back 2,666 vehicles with owners receiving $15,000 to $22,000. In order to qualify for the repurchase agreement, owners must provide evidence of at least three transmission-related repairs made within five years or 60,000 miles. Those who don't qualify for repurchase can still be eligible for compensation as Ford is setting aside a minimum of $30 million for cash payments.
Will this ultimately be the end of a years-long drama for affected owners? Hopefully. Equally important, Ford has learned a lesson in regards to launching underdeveloped products. You can't bring vehicles to market if there are likely to be defects. It's that simple.