By on July 14, 2021

2016 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, Image: Ford

Ford has been getting into trouble over “track-ready” Mustangs after a few customers formally accused the company of erroneous marketing in 2017. A class-action lawsuit was even filed in March of that year, stating that the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 suffered from overheating problems that precluded it from being fully functional on a racetrack — specifically early examples of the car equipped with either the Technology Package or left in the base configuration.

Earlier this month, Federal Judge Federico A. Moreno certified statutory and common law fraud classes pertaining to the model in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Washington State. Additional approvals relating specifically to statutory fraud and/or implied warranty claims were made for Oregon, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas.

Despite the GT350’s flat-plane, 5.2-liter V8 engine (526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque) going down smooth as a dreamy performance engine, early examples of the car are alleged to have leaked fluids when exposed to the rigors of track use — even for a short time. While exclusive to lower-trimmed models, customers remained annoyed that a vehicle Ford described as “track-ready” was undergoing hardships that effectively limited its abilities to a point that it wouldn’t be competitive. Overheating Mustang GT350s would default to an engine management program colloquially known as “Limp Mode” that cut power to keep engine temperatures down.

Ford remedied the problem in 2017 by making the Track Package obligatory. All subsequent models came with the oil, transmission, and differential coolers angry customers claimed should probably have been on the car to begin with. Plaintiffs are claiming that the manufacturer originally removed these items from base-trimmed vehicles as a way to increase profits and never should have stated that they were track-ready automobiles, especially since a number of the involved parties stated they purchased the vehicles exclusively for track use.

2017 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang

“In reality, Plaintiffs say, the Base and Technology package versions of the cars were intentionally designed without coolers in order to inflate Ford’s profits margins,” reads the lawsuit. “As a result, the Base and Tech cars could not complete a full ‘Track Day’ without going into ‘Limp Mode.'”

The Ford Mustang GT350 has since been discontinued to give more leeway for the 760-hp Shelby GT500 and returning Mach 1 Mustang, the latter of which borrows many of the GT350’s components while taking a slightly more relaxed attitude. But its being gone does not mean it has been forgotten. Judge Moreno’s decision opens the door for the class-action experts at Hagens Berman to start making moves in numerous states.

“We are pleased the court has allowed our claims to continue and look forward to leading this case forward with something these affected Mustangs surely lack — speed and endurance,” managing partner of law firm Hagens Berman, Steve Berman, said in a statement. “The class of individuals who purchased these pricey pieces of history deserve to have more than a flashy trophy in their garage. They deserve to have a car that is capable of the track performance they were baited with.”

The international law firm also retweeted a story from The Drive this week, quoting Moreno as cautiously criticizing Ford’s marketing relating to the Mustang.

“Through product placement in James Bond movies and racing partnerships with figures like Carroll Shelby, Ford has spent half a century cultivating an aura of performance and adventure,” the judge wrote in his order. “But these Plaintiffs allege, to Lee Iacocca’s chagrin, that their cars are more like Pintos than Mustangs.”

The Mustang’s track-related issues seem quite a bit less dire than the Pinto fires. But it’s another item in what’s been a prolonged rough patch for Ford’s quality control. While automakers around the globe are perpetually subject to regulatory action and lawsuits relating to false promises, cost-cutting, and general defects, Ford has been getting some high-profile attention of late. While not all of that attention pertains to the Mustang, GT models equipped with the MT82 six-speed manual transmissions supplied by Getrag were hit with a lawsuit of their own. Ford has had a lot of issues with Getrag-sourced gearboxes, with the MT82 starting to get serious attention in 2020.

“The transmission is defective in its design, manufacturing, and or materials in that, among other problems, the transmission slips, jerks, clashes gears, and harshly engages; has premature internal wear, increased shift efforts, inability to drive, and eventually suffers a catastrophic failure,” states the lawsuit. “Ford repeatedly failed to disclose and actively concealed the defect from class members and the public and continues to market the class vehicles without disclosing the transmission defect.”

Problems are suspected to go back to 2010 and incorporates a 2011 investigation conducted by the NHTSA, though it failed to conclude the MT82 posed any “unreasonable” safety risks. The suit was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California but has since been moved to the Eastern District of Michigan. Earlier this year, Ford also settled a class-action lawsuit pertaining to those pesky PowerShift DSP6 dual-clutches sold by Getrag and installed in Fiesta and Focus models between 2011 and 2016.

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]

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19 Comments on “Judge Approves Class Action Suit Against Ford Mustang...”

  • avatar

    I have a really bad feeling about this…

  • avatar

    Sure but how does Tesla keep skating by with the “Self Driving” marketing scam? And people are killed over it.

    Ford didn’t start out with fraud intentions, and the problems appear to be very hit and miss. There’s no consistency to chinesium metallurgy. Racers routinely push MT82 manuals to 8 second 1/4-mile passes with zero issues.

    Not that dealers don’t pretend it’s a non issue when problems occur, except dealers are themselves a defective product.

  • avatar

    EBFlex in 3 2 1….. I remember the early C-7 Vette in Z06 configuration suffered the same fate.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. GM added an addition cooler to the C7 as well. An the ZR1 are stuffed with coolers to control the heat the supercharger generats. Some noted GM’s “track ready” statement had wording buried in it mentioning ambient temps in the 70s and pro drivers noting you couldn’t drive the car at the limits but instead the car was rated running more like the 8/10ths your typical HPDE driver encounters.

      Anyone who has tracked a car knows there are TWO things you must change: the brakes and the cooling. The extent of which varies, sometimes its just fluid or duct work but for other cars you need real changes to survive on track. For example on my 350Z there was no way the stock brakes were up to the task due to the car’s weight. In contrast my brother’s Porsche Cayman can run back-to-back sessions in the heat of FL with no problems related to cooling or brakes. But even here, as an added precaution for long term reliability, he does have an addition (manually activated) aftermarket cooler for the PDK transmission.

  • avatar

    The lawyers make millions and the customers get a $500 coupon.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    “The Mustang’s track-related issues seem quite a bit less dire than the Pinto fires.”
    The 1964-1/2-1973 Mustang had a somewhat higher than average propensity of fuel tank explosions from rear impact collisions. This is apparently due to the center fuel filler and drop in the trunk floor tank design.
    The Mustang restoration supply shops sell a fuel cell retrofit kit.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Interesting. Yet the Mustang II, based on the explody Pinto, didn’t have that issue?

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        The issue with the Pinto was that the fuel tank was only a couple inches away from the differential, so a rear impact could result in the differential and/or its bolt heads puncturing the fuel tank. Compounding the problem – the doors would jam in such an impact, trapping the occupants.

        I had three of them (71, 76, 80); all were fitted with a thick poly ‘blast shield’ positioned between the two components, such that any puncture forces would be blunted.

        I suspect that the Mustang II’s longer wheelbase, later introduction, and different body shape meant that it was not as susceptible to the Pinto’s weakness. Perhaps they were fitted with their own blast shield from the outset.

        TTAC is that the GM truck saddle tanks killed far more people than Pintos, but Pintos get all the bad press. Another TTAC – cars from the 60s and 70s were just plain unsafe. Any car from today is a safer bet.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          I love the cars from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s….but I wouldn’t want one as my daily driver. I got licensed in the ‘70’s, and remember driving many of those barges. No thanks. I’ll take my little 2.5 Outback any day for its efficiency, reliability, handling and safely as well as (sort of) power.

          But the designs back then to me were much more notable, certainly in my developmental stage.

        • 0 avatar

          TTAC is that a 70’s Honda Civic was near twice as likely to catch on fire if rear ended but they were no where near as common as Pintos.

          The problem was that Ford had identified what caused the fuel tank puncture but did not do anything about it since it exceeded the federal requirements of the time.

          • 0 avatar

            Ford also didn’t do anything about it because they determined it was cheaper to pay out the lawsuits than it was to fix the problem.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Well, it’s a relief that this lawsuit only affects the ‘real’ Mustang. /s

  • avatar

    Throughout history there are a few legendary pairings that just work so well together. Surf and turf. Jack and Diane. Fish and water. Bonnie and Clyde. Ford and fraud.

    This isn’t surprising at all, but I’m puzzled why the Mustang is the one that caused a lawsuit. Ford has many other, much greater instances of defrauding people through deceptive and dishonest marketing. The F150, al the gals claims about EcoBust engines, fuel economy claims over the years, etc.

  • avatar

    I’m have no doubt their Engineers noted “car suffers from high engine temperature effects after approx. 3/4 lap, more cooling needed”

    It is a mystery that the company that produced the Powershift transmission sells any vehicles at all…

    • 0 avatar

      Well. Let’s be honest…

      Ford owners are not smart at all. They spend their money on very problematic vehicles. This is the same company that had to develop a trailer backing system because the owners could not figure out how to back a trailer.

  • avatar

    Interesting headline…I’m wondering if “Ford Mustang” was the defendant.

  • avatar

    TTAC has predicted that Tesla as a business would be a flop and that each new model would be a flop. Now you’re predicting its first flop?

  • avatar

    So none of these twits involved in the lawsuit who planned to “extensively track” the car paid any attention to the track pack (you know the option specifically delineating the addition equipment like the trans and diff coolers) option in the order guide?

    When Ford first announced the car I took the time to wander over to the website and checked out the order guide. I wasn’t ready to be an early adopter but I noticed that Ford made the weird decision to separate the GT350 into a base car, a track focused car and a pseudo luxury car with no way to option say a base car with the track equipment or a fully loaded car with all the options. Fortunately for me I caught wind of the changes for the 2017 model year and when I was in a position to buy the car I waited till 2017 to make my purchase.

    I fully suspect these buyers were cut from the same cloth as the one lap wonder PP2 GT crowd that called anybody buying a Shelby a sucker for wasting their money on a name only when a PP2 equipped Mustang GT was every bit as capable for thousands less.

    All I can say is caveat emptor in this case and if Ford has to settle then it is just a buy back less depreciation on the cars and they can go take their money and go help GM boost Camaro sales before the car goes out of production.

    Given the high transaction prices for the used cars Ford could recoup the money in the buy back and pocket a little extra to offset the legal costs of this frivolous lawsuit.

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