Findings From Ford Focus, Fiesta Investigation

July 11, 2019

Internal documents have been made public as part of multiple lawsuits and indicate that Ford knew about transmission issues on two models.

July 11, 2019—Ford filed a 70-page report with the Securities and Exchange Commission in April, and after that reporters from the Detroit Free Press, investigated the legal fights and financial risk to Ford.

Phoebe Wall Howard discovered a trove of internal Ford documents made public in the winter of 2019 as part of state and federal lawsuits. The documents revealed early concern about the transmission technology, problems in development and candid internal examinations after the cars were on the market.

Randy Essex, senior content director at the Detroit Free Press, coordinated the project and analyzed more than 10,000 complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the cars in question, eliminating all but the most specific accounts of DPS6 problems. That turned up at least 4,377 reports to federal officials and 50 previously unreported injuries. 

Mark Phelan, the Detroit Free Press auto critic and product specialist, reviewed technical data involving the transmission and interviewed the former engineer to discuss process, protocol and technical points.

Some key findings of the report include: 

  • Ford knew its 2011 Fiesta and Focus cars had defective transmissions before the cars went on sale.
  • Ford at one point in 2012 decided to change the transmission technology but didn't follow through.
  • Federal regulators inquired after four years of extraordinarily high consumer complaints and declined to open an investigation or order a recall. 

Ford provided the newspaper a response. Read the response here.