Has your Ford Focus or Fiesta been a never-ending nightmare of shudders, leaks, and (seemingly) endless trips to Ford's dealers? Have you been put on the 30+ day wait-list for backordered transmission parts (clutches, seals, control modules, etc.) while also being denied a safer rental or loaner to use in the interim? Has your general experience with the Focus or Fiesta left you feeling like Ford just does not know how to fix their own cars?
It's no secret that the dual clutch transmission (also known as the Powershift 6-Speed Dual Clutch Transmission) has been plagued with problems since it's North American debut in the 2011 model year Ford Fiesta. From recall campaigns, countless internally-released technical service bulletins (detailing continual revisions to the repair procedures and releasing updated parts for repairs), to two separate warranty extensions on parts associated with the transmission, Ford seems to have tried everything to repair this defective transmission.
The frustrations with this transmission have grown so much that there have been numerous class action lawsuits started on behalf of consumers against Ford. Within California, the class action of Omar Vargas v. Ford Motor Company (U.S. Dist. Ct. Central Cal., Case No. 12-CV-08388-AB-FFM) has recently had a settlement obtain preliminary approval by the Court. Within the next week, current and former owners and lessees of 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta or 2012-2016 Ford Focus vehicles should be receiving their class action settlement notices. If you do nothing and fail to send an "Opt-Out" notice by September 5, 2017, you will be bound by the settlement and unable to file a lawsuit. Accordingly, you should have an independent attorney assess whether you would be entitled to more pursuant to the California Lemon Law.
The proposed class action settlement itself provides three forms of remedies:
1) a cash payment (calculated according to the number of either software updates or transmission hardware replacements performed on the particular car but capped at $2,325);
2) a trade-in certificate (valued at twice the amount of the cash payment but only good towards the purchase or lease of another Ford vehicle but capped at $4,650); or
3) participation in an arbitration program to attempt to get a repurchase or replacement.
In contrast, if you qualify under the California Lemon Law, you would be entitled to a refund of all the money you paid for the Focus or Fiesta (including your down payment, monthly payments, and payoff of any outstanding loan balance), incidental and consequential damages, and (potentially) civil penalty damages of up to two times the amount of your actual damages. Depending on the merits of your individual case, you may be waiving tens of thousands of dollars if you fail to properly consult with an experienced attorney.
And while the class settlement suggests that you can participate in an arbitration program to seek a repurchase or replacement under the California Lemon Law, an experienced consumer protection attorney will be able to tell you that the provisions of the arbitration program are unfavorable to you, the consumer. For example, the proposed arbitration program does not allow the arbitrator to award civil penalty damages against Ford. Additionally, under the program, you may be required to provide Ford with another repair opportunity, even if Ford has already had three opportunities. For example, even if Ford has replaced the clutch assembly in your car three times and each time the clutch assembly failed, the proposed arbitration program requires you to give Ford another opportunity (during which Ford will likely just replace the clutch assembly again).
Of course, you may find the class settlement is fair and you may feel comfortable with its terms. But before you make that assessment, take time to consult with an attorney about your particular experience. You may be entitled to far more than what the class action settlement promises, but no one will ever know unless you act now.