By on July 18, 2011

Another weekend has yielded yet another review of the new Ford Focus [this one from the NYT] that’s generally impressed with car but gives it huge negatives for its unruly, efficiency-tuned PowerShift dual-clutch transmission. TTAC’s been tracking PowerShift discontent since the transmission debuted in Europe three years ago, but America’s smoldering dislike of the dual-clutcher has only erupted into flames in recent months, when Consumer Reports, TrueDelta and JD Power all dinged Ford for PowerShift issues as well as MyFordTouch teething woes. And, in the teeth of mounting criticism of its dual-clutch transmission, WardsAuto reports that Ford has

sent dealers a memo with instructions to help sales and service personnel enlighten consumers about the behavioral nuances of the fuel-saving 6-speed automatic gearbox…

Although the Ford gearboxes perform as intended, customers relate the frequency and abruptness of gearshifts to their experiences with conventional automatic transmissions. Hence, a perceived problem, the auto maker says.

“What we really want to convey is their experience is something different,” [Fiesta brand manager Sherryl] Brightwell tells Ward’s, claiming there is nothing “wrong” with the car.

Because it’s not a transmission problem, it’s an enlightenment problem! Nothing to worry about Ma’am, it’s just a little bit grabby between the second and third chakras. Seriously though, TTAC wants to know what Ford thinks consumers need to know before they reach the seventh level of divine PowerShift acceptance. So don’t spin your Dharmic wheels, TTAC-reading Ford dealers… shoot us a copy [contact form here, anonymity guaranteed] and we’ll let TTAC’s Best and Brightest meditate on the problem as well as its proposed solution.

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84 Comments on “TTAC Bounty: Ford’s PowerShift “Consumer Enlightenment” Memo...”


  • avatar

    In a related note, Ford needs to offer a 6-speed manual instead of a 5 and make it available on more trim levels.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      +1000

      In my experience with the PowerShift I didnt have any complaints, but I do worry about long-term reliability. If I were to get a Focus I’d just get the manual, and it annoys me that there’s only 5-speeds (otherwise I love the new Focus though)

      • 0 avatar
        SimonAlberta

        a 6-speed gearbox may well suit proper drivers as i hope are reading this blog but the buyers of the car, in the main, are probably fine with 5 gears to play with.

        besides, it is my view that a high percentage of drivers are mostly in the wrong gear most of the time so giving them an extra one to play with offers no real benefit to anything.

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        Simon,
        You’re probably right about only needing 5 gears, but since my 2002 Focus has 6, I’d feel like I was going backwards to buy a 2012 Focus with 5.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Enlightenment gap?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Well that crankshaft hobbit is very depressed, and he needs therapy…

    (a two-for-one ATHF reference, AWESOME!!!)

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Save money, get the 5-speed manual and option the car up to maximum (yeah you’ll have to order it and wait, get over it.) Problem solved and you can relish “rowing your own.”

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Dan, that’s how I do it – but for the better part of decade, it has meant getting the DX version versus the LX.

      The LX / LXE models from most manufacturers are only available with an automatic transmission. In Ford’s case that would be the Platinum model.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      ~90 percent of Focus buyers will ignore this good advice.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Guys the Focus hatch SEL is on my short list of “new cars I might actually buy.” I guess I’m fortunate in that I know how to work a manual, don’t have a bad knee that would keep me from it, and don’t “have to have” leather. I was happy to learn that it was possible to order a SEL hatch with cloth and the “winter package” (heated seats and mirrors.) Yeah I know they’re aren’t any like that on dealer lots likely but if consumers would stand up and do these things perhaps we could at least slow the death of the manual transmission. Or maybe more manufacturers would decide to give us manual trans, V6, mid-size family sedans.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Getting a manual transmission Focus does nothing to protect you from head-off maintenance resulting from Ford’s form of direct injection. Do you have faith that Ford wouldn’t unleash direct injection on their customers without having found some magical way to keep the intake paths and valves clean? Really?

      • 0 avatar
        potatobreath

        Would the Italian tune-up or a shot of Techron concentrate be enough to clean out valves and intake tracts? :)

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Without gasoline in the intake, there’s nothing to make an italian tune up effective as a method of cleaning the backs of the valves or the ports themselves. Where do you add Techron concentrate? To the gas tank?

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        When driving, nothing is more enjoyable than a manual transmission car on a winding road with little traffic and non-existent law enforcement. To those of you who can drive like this most of the time, more power to you. I’m envious.

        Since 98% of my driving is the opposite of this (urban street grids, ruler straight, multi-lane freeways, lots of other cars, stop and go traffic or freeway speeds that vary enough to require frequent shifting, law enforcement galore, etc.) I’ll just go ahead and file this “good advice” in the round file and purchase an automatic.

      • 0 avatar
        2ronnies1cup

        “Do you have faith that Ford wouldn’t unleash direct injection on their customers without having found some magical way to keep the intake paths and valves clean?”

        Every Diesel engine in the world seems to manage it. (except the 2-stroke ones , of course).

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        Hey guys, if I’m purchasing the car or truck, it needs to be have a manual transmission – but here in Texas, I’d venture to say that automatics outsell manual transmissions by 20 to 1 – on vehicles that still have an available manual transmission.

        The result locally is with 95% of car buyers preferring a car equipped with an automatic transmission – even the Subaru and Volkswagen dealers in this area rarely have a vehicle with manual transmission on their lots.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    The “customer needs to be enlightened strategy” will fail. Some other car manufacturer has a six-speed auto for a FWD vehicle that works fine.

    If it is a QC issue, Ford may want to buy some of these lemons back to use a test vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Not only do other manufactures have six-spped conventional autos that work fine, others like VW even have dual clutch transmissions that work fine. I test drove a DSG GTI a few weeks ago and the shifts were almost imperceptible they were so smooth and instantaneous.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        From the Ward’s Auto article linked above:

        “Like Ford, VW experienced some complaints related to the technology, says John R. Chauvin, general manager of Hewlett Volkswagen in Georgetown, TX.

        “It’s just a matter of describing how it’s engineered,” Chauvin tells Ward’s. “VW customers are usually somewhat familiar with German engineering and may have a different mindset going in, and I would think Ford customers are just not used to it at this point.”

  • avatar
    pg123456789

    I’ve heard the Focus might be having these kinds of issues.

    People need to drive manual transmissions, especially in small cars. Ford should offer manual transmissions (6 speeds, not 5 speeds) across the board, not just in their base cars and Mustangs, and so should all car makers. Ford, are you listening?

  • avatar
    mjz

    Test drove a new Fiesta at a “ride and drive” with the PowerShift when it first came out. I was with a friend who used to be a Ford engineer, and he INSISTED that the abrupt shifts and weird transmission behavior indicated I simply did not understand how to drive a car! He drove the manual instead, which drove just fine. My repeated attempts to point out to him that there were “issues” with the PowerShift fell on deaf ears. All these new reports make me feel vindicated! YES!

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Used to be? Either he is still defending the cause out of brute chauvinism, or he must have ingested some of that delayed-release long-lsting Dearborn-flavored Detroit Kool-Aid (which closes one’s mind to both reality the competition may be doing it better, and to an existential necessity which dictates that an OEM who doesn’t adapt to the environment of the customer’s wants better than that next nearest competitor will be over-rolled by competitive evolution and go extinct).

  • avatar
    philadlj

    From the Ford website:

    “Part of what makes Focus so satisfying to drive is its fully engaging available six-speed PowerShift™ automatic transmission, which delivers seamless gear changes and excellent responsiveness. And because it’s also designed to be fuel-smart, you can have plenty of fun, without paying the price at the pump.”

    Whoever wrote that hogwash should be sentenced to drive the grinding Fiesta in that YouTube video until he repents.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The sad thing is that Ford is right. People have complained strenuously for over a decade about CVTs, SMGs, DCTs, and the like in Fords, Toyotas, Saturns, BMWs, VWs, Nissans, smarts, etc. The only thing those transmissions all have is common is that they don’t mimic the distant, spongy whoosh shifts of a modern slushbox that people have been trained to expect from a non-stick transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      That’s pretty much been my experience.

      While test-driving a new Ford Fiesta everything was peachy on the back-roads behind the dealership, then I took it onto the highway for a quick acceleration test. Saw the on-ramp, took it, put the pedal down.. waited.. waited.. waited for that ‘whoosh’ telling me I’d arrived at the cruising band. Got a little worried, was something gonna run-over this little tub before I made it to the next exit ramp? Then I looked at the Speedo and went, “Holy crap, I’m doing 70 already? When did that happen?”

      It was kinda cool, and kinda spooky at the same time.

      Then I tried a new Focus, was a horribad experience. Maybe the computers were just set-up wrong or was the greater mass at fault, but I kept feeling the engine having to significantly ‘spool-up’ when I pushed in the accelerator before I felt any change in the car’s momentum.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Do Fords equipped with this transmission have a “transmission problem” warning light? I know that some Ford models flash the “O/D OFF” light if there is a code in the transmission.

    There should be, since it would help Ford explain to consumers the difference between “normal behavior” and a malfunctioning transmission.

  • avatar
    SecretAznMan

    Well, that video is definitely not an enlightenment deficiency. This is sounding like a worse black eye than the 2000 Total Recall Focus. Some things just don’t change.

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      There’s a disconnect here between the subject of the memo and the video. The video shows a well-documented problem with some Fiestas, which Ford has acknowledged – nothing heard there is normal behavior that owners should just sit back and get used to.

      TTAC, posting a video of a broken transmission above an article about transmissions whose normal behavior is different from customer expectation is not good journalism.

  • avatar
    potatobreath

    I’ve been driving the PowerShift in the rental Focus Titanium and Fiesta SES/SEL for a while now. It took some getting used to, but after a few weeks I stopped thinking about the shifts. The dealer really does need to explain the nuances of the gearbox during the test drive or at delivery (in case the customer doesn’t take a test drive). Have a video in the showrooms? Include a leaflet about the novel transmission in the owner’s manual wallet?

    All the power and efficiency of a manual transmission without the need to manually shift or use a clutch pedal. No power-sapping cushion of fluid like in conventional autos, but shifts can be somewhat more abrupt as a result. Lots of gears to keep the engine in its power band, so lots more shifts. May take some getting used to, but fuel economy benefits!

    I’d row my own if I bought a Focus though.

  • avatar
    anchke

    Ah, yes, by all means, “enlighten consumers about the behavioral nuances” of PowerShift.” Say aren’t these the same consumers who put their money on the new product? Maybe the problem deserves something other than, “Ah, you hopeless dopes don’t get nuances. Let us patronize you.” Maybe this is a good spot to drop in my usual boilerplate re: the more astonishing whiz bangs and dohickeys added to cars, the more irritating they are to drive. Hey, I know, forget the nuance education initiative. Just offer free driver training on manuals.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    This news about Ford Powershift problems makes me a little sad. I currently have a 5sp Miata and a slushbox Lexus but I know there will come a time when I reach automatic-only dotage when my knees can’t take the clutch any more. I am fervently hoping that by the time that time comes, these dual-clutch autos will be advanced enough that I can buy one with confidence that I’m not paying to be a manufacturer’s beta tester. As this shows, that technology has not yet reached that point.

    If it’s really just a programming issue, hopefully the fix isn’t too bad. I sure hope the car industry can get this right in time for me to need one.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Ford ignoring transmission issues on several models of new vehicles – GM overstocking trucks – does any of this feel remarkably familiar? Anyone?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Reading accounts like this ***almost*** makes me wish for the return of the Powerglide! For now, I’ll just stick with my 4-speed tranny in my Imp, which works just fine, thank you!

  • avatar
    carguy

    Ford needs to resolve its Mustang, Focus and Fiesta transmission problem – its really denting their reputation. VW and a host of other manufacturers make good DSG gearboxes so Ford should be expected to produce a reliable and smooth product,

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    There’s a thin line between “abrupt” and “instantaneous”, I don’t think I understand the difference. The DSG seems to be the European alternative to the Japanese CVT approach to minimizing the time that the transmission is disengaged from the engine. The CVT theoretically is always in gear, the dual clutch is disengaged for the absolute minimum duration. Given the premature failures in Nissan’s CVT I’m inclined to go with the dual clutch for now.

    My experience with my TDI with DSG has been excellent, although the shift program tends to upshift early and downshift reluctantly; I can beat the computer for MPG by shifting manually. It will occasionally get confused in 2nd gear, when it guesses wrong as to whether I’ll need first or third next. Not a big deal, it’s not like I was never in the wrong gear for the situation with a manual.

    I do wish some people would stop parroting “get a manual” incessantly. Having an economy car with a stick does not make you a “real driver” or your ride some kind of “real car”. My commute is on the infamous Long Island Expressway. I can count on long tedious stretches where you creep, stop, go two car lengths, stop, etc, every single day. Throw in a little arthritis in my left knee, and you have a recipe for torture. Probably isn’t doing the clutch any good either. There are conditions like mine in every metro area in the country, and clinging to the idea of “rowing your own” is just passe’. Kind of like wanting a PC with tubes.

    Just out of curiosity, having just done my fluid change at 40k, is the Ford dual-clutch a wet or dry system? Not sure if the average Focus buyer is going to react well at needing $120 worth of very special fluid, even if Ford service asks less than the $600 my VW dealer wanted.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      The Ford’s system is a dry clutch and is supposed to have a lifetime fluid and the transmissions are sealed and are expected to last at least 150K miles. If any servicing should be necessary, I think only the dealer or qualified mechanic can work on them as most people don’t even bother to replace their transmission fluid anyway so this helps there, supposedly.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Nice of Ford to equate “lifetime” with 150k. Is this part of their new philosophy to increase their dealer service revenue? Like their “lifetime” air filter? Or Chrysler now designating a tranny dipstick as a “special service tool”?

        Granted, servicing my DSG wasn’t what I’d call simple, but it can be DIY’ed. Had to buy a fill adapter (it fills from the drain hole), then had to get a knockoff VAG-COM adapter to read the trans temperature (for determining the correct fill level), then the giant Allen wrench to get the drain plug out. But I still saved $400 and will be set for future changes.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        150K “lifetime”? Who’s?

        At this rate, I can see the day when you will only be able to keep a car for three to five years, the front will be sealed and certain things that need servicing will be sealed and only an “authorized service center” will be able to access any of the fluids and mechanicals. If a real problem arises, they’ll be able to remove the entire drive train from the bottom, install a replacement, and send you on your merry way.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        “Lifetime” means “lifetime of the manufacturer warranty”.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      I think the North American Fords are all dry-clutch.

      I’m not sure if your “rowing your own” comment was directed at me. I’m perfectly fine with having an automated manual transmission option for people who prefer not to handle a clutch or cannot handle a clutch without discomfort. I’ve driven in bumper to bumper traffic with motorcycles and cars before, but I’m okay with that. Your mileage may vary.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Jpollicke,

      I tend to agree that 150K isn’t considered a lifetime of the car as most cars go WAY beyond that but I’ve read recently that most cars are built now to start going at a certain mileage where things like switchgear and such begin to fail.

      I DO remember reading that the transmission itself is to be non serviceable and they expect at LEAST 150K, if not more out of the life of the transmission before you have to replace it (and they probably rebuild the original tranny and resell it as a rebuilt unit).

      Most automatics today are “built” to last the life of the ENTIRE car, but obviously, not all do as we all know.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I just testdrove a Focus SE with powershift. I didn’t find the transmission objectionable. On the other hand, I didn’t see great fuel economy. Driving in traffic with the AC on, the computer registered 21 MPG. My previous test drive was a Sonata Hybrid, also driven in traffic with the AC on which showed 37 mpg on the trip computer. In April, I drove manual and automatic versions of the Chevrolet Cruz Eco, half highway half city. The computer showed 40.8 on the manual transmission and 36 MPG for the automatic.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I drove one of the very early Fiestas with the PowerShift auto last summer and didn’t notice the firmer shifting but DID notice it would downshift almost instantaneously when asked to though.

    Mind you, I came from an older Ford Ranger truck with a manual so feeling the shift points weren’t an issue with me. Didn’t notice it making any unusual noises either at the time.

    I DO think that if us American’s with such fickle attitudes got a good education on these types of automatics and were made to realize that a firmer shift is indeed normal, as long as the car did perform fine otherwise.

    However, that video I could barely hear anything wrong other than a slight hum as the car moved along and the tick-tock of the turn signal as the guy turned and/or changed lanes.

    The dual dry clutch setup is supposed to smooth out the shifts between gears so they’re not as abrupt as would be found on a single clutch auto box but even there, some feel of the tranny shifting should be felt, even if rather minute. Heck, even a slushbox can shift rather abruptly if the needs warrant.

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      If you turn up the sound a bit you can hear it making odd grinding noises in some cases when it seems like it should be shifting. It almost sounds like a solenoid isn’t clicking over all the way… like the sound you get when your battery is dying and the starter solenoid just goes BZZZZZZZZ.

  • avatar
    uncleAl

    I am in the market for a new car. All of the buzz about good things at the domestics persuaded me to put them on the list. Reading this is depressing and reminds me of all of the times I have experienced the heartbreak of a broken Ford or GM in the past. (never owned a Cryco product)
    Sadly, I will have to pick again from the somewhat boring Lexus, Toyota, or Honda offerings. It is bad enough to have to go to a $&@?$ car dealer to buy one of the darned things, I do not want to see them again during the three years I generally keep a vehicle..

  • avatar
    GiddyHitch

    It’s not a problem, it’s a feature!

    In all seriousness, I wonder if this is one of those problems that is magnified for first-time users like reviewers and new owners but is eliminated or at least mitigated over time. I have a buddy who got an SMG-equipped E46 M3 and the first time I drove with him, I thought that transmission was the most abrupt, jerkiest transmission that I had ever experienced. Six months later, my buddy had figured out how to modulate the gas pedal during shifts so that it was pretty smooth around town.

    That being said, it is not encouraging to see Ford screwing up the transmissions on two of their high-profile/high-volume models. There’s a lot of things that you can screw up on a car and the average buyer will never notice – transmission behavior is not one of those things.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The E46 SMG was a single clutch type. Later models with dual clutch gearboxes were meant to address the smoothness issue. The Ford transmission is already a dual clutch type gearbox, but they haven’t found a calibration that delivers smoothness and acceptable service life. It is probably better for the customers that they sacrificed smoothness for component durability. Achieving both would have been more impressive though. Every time a Focus powershift owner rides in a friend’s car with a conventional automatic, they’ll regret their purchase.

  • avatar

    I got through watching and listening to the video. Something’s wrong with that transmission.

    For comparison’s sake, here’s a video of another 2011 Fiesta with the same transmission:

  • avatar
    jogrd

    Pretty sure when I test drove a Fit the shifts were pretty harsh and the obnoxious farty noise the engine was making with the automatic was so awful I couldn’t buy the car. And that can’t be fixed.

  • avatar
    vbofw

    interesting. I’d be interested to know Baruth’s and Karesh’s thoughts on this since they reviewed the titaniums with auto.

    Seems to me it is simply a different technology deployed to get higher MPGs, and drivers therefore will have to get used to it. Akin to a first generation Prius owner complaining their car is silent at low speeds (very un-car-like).

    Sacrifices must be made to achieve the MPGs. We’ll have to get used to this with 50+ CAFE. If If it is too disruptive and mileage is not a major concern, buy a Jetta and get your 31 mpg. If you want the 38/39 mpg, have a mostly highway commute and are looking for a luxuriously appointed and highly styled commuter, this could be your choice.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Or someone could always buy a Honda Civic that gets slightly better mileage in the real world without any bleeding edge technologies that will make ownership miserable and expensive. There is nothing weird about the way a Civic shifts, and there are no completely predictable elaborate maintenance proceedures waiting to hit you when the car’s value makes the expenditure painful.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        Except for the fact that the new Civic is desperately trying to out Corolla the Corolla in terms of blandness.

        The Hyundai Elantra is the best choice in the US small car market available now. Conventional automatic transmission and they’ve been reliable and solid for several generations now. Plus, they look good, drive nicely, and have a nice conventional instrument cluster.

        Honda has lost its way in the car market, and Hyundai will soon claim its old position as a purveyor of nicely styled cars that hold up well and don’t suck to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        WRohrl

        The only problem is the Civic is B O R I N G. I know, I’ve had 2 (’08 EX and an ’08Hybrid, not at the same time). But you are right in essence. Boring beats going back to the dealer every time.

      • 0 avatar
        Ubermensch

        For some of us their is more to driving than just having a car that doesn’t break. I’ll take a little bit of fun over dead reliable.

        Regarding the Civic: Call me when Honda puts a motor in it with some torque.

      • 0 avatar
        vbofw

        “Or someone could always buy a Honda Civic that gets slightly better mileage in the real world without any bleeding edge technologies that will make ownership miserable and expensive.”

        Sure, the Civic works, too. As long as respectable interior appearance isn’t on your gotta have-it list. Yes yes styling is subjective, but that console seems like it was intentionally made to appeal to 18 year old video gamers.

  • avatar
    red stick

    Have we actually managed to find something VW does right?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It depends on whether or not you care about when you step on the gas and nothing happens:

      http://www.google.com/search?q=Volkswagen+hesitation+DSG&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7RNWN

  • avatar
    Enthusiast1

    I have a VW DSG, it is anything but smooth, looking to unload it anyday, tired of VW telling me, “it’s just how they run”

  • avatar
    jogrd

    “There is nothing weird about the way a Civic shifts, and there are no completely predictable elaborate maintenance proceedures waiting to hit you when the car’s value makes the expenditure painful”

    http://www.8thcivic.com/forums/mechanical-problems-technical-chat/222040-engine-blocked-cracked-2.html

    http://www.8thcivic.com/forums/civic-coupe-sedan/72239-2008-honda-civic-jerky-automatic-transmission-between-10-15-mph-9.html

    Long time Civic fan back to my first 78. Honda used to be a leader in “bleeding edge technologies” which made them interesting to me.
    No longer.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Also, what about this thread? Sounds like Honda can’t even engineer a manual transmission properly anymore. Even VW and Audi can figure that one out.

      http://www.honda-tech.com/showthread.php?t=2275287

  • avatar
    jj99

    I can smell the laughter from Toyota and Honda corporate offices.

  • avatar
    dmw

    I have not driven the Ford DCT, but from experience with the VW DSG, I can see why it is not everyone’s cup of tea. When it is properly “pre-selecting,” it is brilliant; when not, it is a bit harsh. But the upside is the blazing fast and smooth 2-3 upshift and totally imperceptible shifts at highway speeds. You have to accept that certain driving patterns will not give you successive “instant” shifts. It’s a positive balance for me.

    My wife has a 2.0T Passat with the 6speed slushbox, and from the comparison I can say I will never go back to to a regular automatic. Gearing and weight differences aside, subjectively, the Passat is definitely more docile in regular traffic and not ideosyncratic. It’s hard to flummox the transmission. But compared to the DSG, it is also unyielding and it punishes intervention. The downshifts are much slower and if you go to the manual mode it takes a second to evaluate your request and then the torgue goes missing for a second on upshift. Basically, if you want to put it in “D” and glide around as smoothly as possible, modern slushboxes do very well now, and the DSG will just annoy you. The DSG is a performance feature with specific compromises.

    VW has had problems with the DSG too, yes. As far as the “hesitation,” that has been dealt with via recall of the faulty mechatronics run, as far as I know. Some talk about the flywheel here and there too. So there is still evidence that you are taking a risk on “bleeding-edge” technology. But for some people, exciting and potentially expensive is better than boring and usually cheap.

  • avatar

    I was in the market for a new car 2 month ago and really wanted a Focus, I read 2 reviews here on TTAC that sound like it’s the best thing Ford ever made, no word on the annoying AT.
    Then, I took a test drive on the SE with the power shift, what a disaster, I drove the car for a half hour and understood this is not for me, just because the behavior of the AT.
    Car and Driver gave it first place while complaining about the AT but yesterday I saw this:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/automobiles/autoreviews/ford-focus-is-slick-package-but-gearbox-is-a-drag.html?_r=1&ref=automobiles
    At last, someone was brave enough to say “don’t buy it unless you are willing to suffer”
    At the end, I took a 2011 Mazda 3 hatch, my last Mazda 3 was a joy to drive for 5 years, never change AT fluid, never missed a gear, the AT was smooth as butter for 66k miles and the manual mode works like a charm, no stupid buttons on the lever.
    The Focus is a sister car to the Mazda 3, open the hood on both and it looks exactly the same, why is it that since Ford disconnect itself from Mazda, they screw up the car?

  • avatar
    jj99

    Focusmaggedon.

    Fiestamaggedon.

    PowerShiftmaggedon.

    Mustangmaggedon.

    MyFordTouchmaggedon.

    Fordmaggedon.

  • avatar
    PennSt8

    I recently acquired a Powershift equipped Focus myself, and after a couple of weeks driving it (and approx 800 miles later) the transmission feels smooth and responsive. That said I could see why Ford might need to inform customers on the common characteristics of this type of transmission.

    The Focus really does feel like a solid effort (sans MyFord Touch).

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Typical Ford…blame the customer.

    Maybe the transmission is fine….what customers are experiencing is the transmissions attempt at getting out of such ugly and horrid little appliances.

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      Time for customer responsibility. They made the decision to buy the Fiesta or Focus even though numerous articles warn about PowerShift transmission problems. When so many negative PowerShift transmission reviews all over the web are ignored by the customer, it is good old fashioned “Buyer Beware”. You failed to heed the warnings. No tears allowed.

      • 0 avatar
        BuzzDog

        Time for customer responsibility.

        +1. Even for those who don’t read reviews before making a decision, don’t people still test drive cars before they’re purchased?

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        At my dealership the policy is that every customer test drives the car before they buy it. I’ve taken many, many, test drives with the new Focus, and I have yet to have someone tell me that they hate the way it shifts.

        I do make a point to explain how it works before we go on the drive, and how the shifts will feel more like a manual than a traditional automatic, and that is one of the reasons the car gets such great fuel economy. Most customers don’t notice anything odd about the transmission at all, some think it’s cool, and occasionally someone thinks the shifts are a bit aggressive, but not to the point of being a dealbreaker. I obviously haven’t sold every Focus that I’ve worked with someone on, but I have yet to have anyone tell me the automatic transmission is the reason they didn’t buy.

      • 0 avatar

        I think that the same customer that is not reading reviews is the same one who will not take a test drive or take the test drive and feel fine with the AT just because the sales man told him “it’s fine, this is how it should be”.
        Ford just took a great car and screw it up with one major component!

        NulloModo:
        If you need to explain how it works b-4 a test drive, this alone would make me suspicious, so you know it’s not good.
        A good AT should adapt to your way of driving not the other way around.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        dror –

        The transmission does adapt over time, the software learns to anticipate the driver’s style and to shift appropriately.

        I don’t see a problem with explaining how a new technology in the car will feel different and explaining why. Electric power steering feels different from hydraulic power steering, hybrid regenerative braking feels different from traditional pad brakes, and dual-clutch transmissions feel different from torque-converter automatics which feel different from CVTs. A more pronounced shift feel (or a complete late of shift feel in a CVT) isn’t necessarily a bad thing if someone knows to expect it and that it is normal.

        The shift feel of the dual-clutch powershift doesn’t in any way ruin the Focus. Most people will either not notice it, not be bothered by it, or even like it. A certain chunk of people may be bothered, but the other great features of the car could easily outweigh it. There will be some for whom it’s a big problem and they won’t buy, but that could be said of any number of features on any number of cars on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        BuzzDog, I am with you and FoMoCo on this one. Pleanty of reviews on the web plus a test drive should expose the PowerShift behavior. FoMoCo is going farther to make sure the behavior is disclosed. The customer bears some responsibility.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    This isn’t about blaming customers, this is about making sure people understand why the transmission feels like it does. As far as I know there haven’t been any widespread reliability issues with the Powershift in the Focus, and the big issue in the Fiesta was just a ground wire – the transmission itself is sound.

    Tuning the transmission is tricky. Enthusiasts hear dual-clutch and they want an aggressively shifting performance oriented transmission. The vast majority of buyers heard ‘dual-clutch’ and let it go in one ear and out the other. Those buyers like the fuel economy it delivers, but they don’t particularly care how it works, and want it to feel like a traditional automatic. For those buyers the manual feel of the powershift in normal operation may seem like a problem.

    The solution is the transmissions learning mode, which should let cars in the hands of enthusiasts learn to shift in a more performance oriented style, while cars in the hands of normal people adapt to their driving habits and let the shifts fall where they won’t be noticed. This, of course, takes time, and since most reviewers are with the car for a day or two at most, they never put on enough miles to let the car learn their habits so it feels out of sorts.

  • avatar
    jj99

    From the Mazda 2 review a few posts away, someone indicated the Mazda 2 has a traditional ( i.e. not PowerShift ) automatic. If I was a Ford executive, I would offer the Mazda automatic transmission in the Focus and Fiesta. The customer could choose between the “lower cost” traditional automatic or the PowerShift automatic. Problem solved.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      VW does this on at least some of their models, IIRC where a consumer has an option between a torque converter automatic and a DSG.

    • 0 avatar
      MrWhopee

      Well, Ford did just that where I live. The Fiesta is available with 1.4l engine and 4-speed auto for the lower end model (or 5-speed manual), and 1.6l engine with the DSG (only, no manual) for the high-zoot model. Though the acceleration on the 1.4l / 4-speed combo is probably rather glacial…

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I haven’t driven one yet, but my buddy’s girlfriend has a Fiesta that he’s driven a few times so I asked him how he liked the transmission. He said it’s one of the worst automatics he has ever driven. I was surprised to hear that, as he’s not a big fan of the traditional slushbox. I commented on it being a dual clutch unit and he didn’t believe me, so we looked up the specs and confirmed it. He drove it again after that, and says that he can tell that it’s a bit different, but it’s still one of the worst autos he’s ever driven. I’ll have to take it for a spin sometime.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    You do realize that if Ford fixes this issue, a simple flash of the trans computer chip, it will loose sales in the profitable pickup division. CAFE issue. Fords wants to sell the 40mpg models to support the margins it makes on Explorers.

  • avatar
    bizzarodave

    Realizing that I am only 1 data point, I own a 2012 5 Door Focus SE with the 6 speed auto, and I think it’s a fantastic transmission. It shifts so smoothly that it’s nearly imperceptible under reasonable acceleration, and appropriately aggressive (but no less smooth) under hard throttle. Worth pointing out that I’ve had my Focus for 3 months now, and I picked it up with 19 miles on the clock.

    I’ve also driven a friend’s 2011 4 door Fiesta a few times with the same transmission, and found it to be as refined as it is in my hatch. My experience makes me wonder if a statistically small number of incidents are being magnified by the message board phenomenon.

    • 0 avatar
      PennSt8

      x2

      It’s to the point now that the only way that I can tell if the transmission is shifting is by listening to the engine. That’s applicable if you baby it, or if you are on the throttle aggressively. The Powershift is as smooth as the 8 speed that’s in our 535i.

      But of course no one wants to hear what actual customers that have own these vehicles have to say. Magazines and newspapers trump actual owner experience.

      • 0 avatar
        rollo

        Count me in. We have a year on our Fiesta with the 6 speed Powershift box, and it shifts no worse than any traditional slushbox I’ve driven. In fact my only real complaint is that it doesn’t have a manual mode.

        The car in the video is broken. This is not the same thing.

  • avatar
    j-3cub

    Well my Ford Fiesta had less than 1800 miles on it when the transmission started chattering while holding a steady traffic speed of 30 MPH after it warmed up. Now it does it bad between 30 and 55 MPH, still after it is warmed up. It’s fine when it’s cold. Also twice after putting 2900 miles on the car, the transmission would not release when trying to stop at a stop light. It drove me through a red light, TWICE. It was as if I was driving a manual transmission car and forgot to put the clutch in. Scared me to death, but I’m forced to keep driving it. Took it to Kline Motors, a Ford dealership in Winfield KS. They said they worked on it for 2 hours and charged over $172 and did absolutely NOTHING except tell me the transmission needs replaced for $5200. For 2 hours work they did not even up-date the computer that drives the transmission. I bet the mechanic never even touched it. Ford will not cover it because the car was in a very minor fender bender and the title was marked rebuilder, airbags were not even blown. What a cop out. What ticks me off about Kline’s is I told the service manger I re-built the car, which was nothing more than a front bumper cover and AC lines for the most part and all the parts that need replaced were bolt on OEM parts. I asked Kline’s to check the VIN to make sure Ford would cover it, they never checked it but said it would be covered to 36,000 miles and bring it in anyway. If you let Kline work on your car you better get what they are going to do in writing FIRST with the total price tag or they will screw you big time. But why the car was flagged by the insurance company I have no idea, but Ford is sure using it as an excuse not to touch it even though they know they made a very defective transmission.

    In any case I got a piece of crap Ford Fiesta that I’m scared to death to drive, but for now I’m stuck with it every day, and every day wondering if it’s going to drive me through another intersection to get hit by someone. If I was Ford I would be scared to death with these cars on the road. This should be a safety issue and the NTSB should force them to make a re-call for safety reasons.

    So, does anyone have any ideas on what parts I need to replace to fix this transmission? I sure can’t afford a new one at $5200. That is crazy.

    And as far as replies from NulloModo, you sound like a true sales man for Ford. Keep trying to convince people it’s OK. Try your best, but I will remind you I was not born yesterday and this is not the first car I ever drive. If someone says their car is not right, FORD SHOULD LISTEN. It’s a bad design for goodness sake, you can read all about it all over the internet. Ford and the dealers should get over it and face up that it’s a bad tranny and just fix it and save face. Quite trying to bury it, sweep it under the rug and hope it goes away. Come on people, does it really take thousands of miles for your car to learn how you drive? Get real, are you all that stupid to believe that crap? Better not lend out your car, you’ll be screwed by a new driver and a confused computer, right? You all do understand, the idea is to get you past warrantee, RIGHT??? WAKE UP!!!!! The transmission is a piece of JUNK. And Ford does not know how to fix it or does not want to spend the money.

    Notice all the Fiesta commercials lately???? Ha, NONE anymore that I seen on TV. WHY? Come on, take a guess.

    If it was not for the transmission I’d give this car high marks for a small car. Keep in mind it is a small car. But if you can’t drive it and there seems to be no good fix, what’s the point in spending money on a car like this.

    My advice, stay away from it.


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