Do I have some sort of recourse against Ford?
May 14, 2013 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I purchased a 2012 Ford Focus and it has been having performance issues that the dealer doesn't want try and fix. Should I risk aggravating the dealer and try to activate Ohio's lemon law or seek some other form of recourse?

I purchased the Focus about 16 months ago. The car was stuttering and lurching during acceleration and rolling backwards when coming off a complete stop. At first I was told that the behavior was part of the "green" clutch's break-in period. That lasted a few months, which seemed to long, until I saw there was a recall on the programming for the "green" clutch. I had that done and it seemed to help.

Around Christmas it began acting up again and has been getting steadily worse. I took it back in to the dealership and when I described the problems was given a handout listing all these different problems people were reporting with the Focus and explanations as to why they weren't actually problems. The problems I was experiencing were explained by the handout as being part of the "green" clutch break-in period. But it only says it should last 100-1000 miles - I've driven 15,000 and well more than 1000 since the reprogramming. When I asked the mechanic about it he said that the break-in period never actually ends and is the price the Focus pays for getting good miles per gallon (which isn't all that great in town - 28 mpg).

I am not happy. Other cars get good mileage without driving like shit. If I had known about this I wouldn't have bought the damn thing.

My question is this - should I take the car in to the dealer and demand they work on it anyways, knowing it won't fix it, until I can activate Ohio's lemon laws? Or should I look towards some other form of recourse? Or am I just screwed?
posted by charred husk to Law & Government (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you have the recourse of the lemon law and they have to work on the car, then what do you care if they get aggravated?
posted by cmoj at 2:11 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call Ford customer service before you speak to the dealer again, and before you activate any "lemon law" action, see what they tell you.

I've had exceptional responses once the manufacturer gets involved.
posted by HuronBob at 2:13 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lemon law. You've paid your hard-earned money for a product that is defective. This is precisely why the Lemon law was created. Don't give a second thought to the dealer; they obviously don't care about you.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:22 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

The trick is to decide what you want to have happen and then escalate up the chain until you find the person who can do that for you. It takes a calm persistence, but it can be done. I had a 2008 VW Touareg that was bought back by the manufacturer after two years of being in the shop. They offered me a killer deal on a 2011 and I have loved every minute of driving the newer VW. It took a threat of calling the local news crew, but It was worth sticking with it.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:25 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I seem to remember an old episode of Car Talk where they said when this happens, the person to speak to is called a Zone Rep, who I guess is like a regional manager. I believe you can get the name an number of your zone rep by calling the dealership or the Ford Motor Company directly.

Also, sometimes the dealership can find new motivation to help you when you mention that you plan to contact your zone rep.
posted by 4ster at 2:29 PM on May 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here are a couple of things you can try:

1. Go to a different dealer. Explain the problems you've been having. They may have better service and they may want you for their own customer in the future.

2. Contact the manufacturer. See if you can get someone in Detroit to pay attention. If nothing else get the name, number and email of your ZONE MANAGER. This is the the grand poobah, and this person WILL resolve your problem. Ford Zone Managers are on LinkedIn. So you can link to them, then InMail them mercilessly.

3. Escalate to the Service Manager. Make an appointment, bring your paperwork, show them that you're going to be making a case for a lemon law complaint. This should light a fire under his or her ass. If this doesn't work, Escalate to the Owner.

4. If you're still getting no love, start the Lemon Law stuff rolling. Be sure to get paperwork EVERY TIME you bring it in for service.

I had a Mercury Lynx, it was a decent car. Both my sister and my cousin had the smaller cars (Focus, Fiesta, Escort) My cousin kept a kid's pail and shovel in the back seat and everytime a part fell of, she'd put it in there. My sister bailed out of her car the instant she could.

I'm a Honda driver now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:33 PM on May 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Frankly, I wouldn't give this current dealer any more chances. They've already been jerking you around and their explanations sound like complete b.s. In any case, it's not your job to beta test their faulty product; you paid money for a fully functional new car and you didn't get what you paid for, simple as that. According to the Ohio Lemon Law Statutes,

" A “lemon” is a new motor vehicle that has one or more problems covered by the warranty that substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. Ohio’s Lemon Law (starting at R.C. 1345.71) requires manufacturers to repair defects that affect the use, value or safety of a new motor vehicle within the first 12 months or first 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first."

You've already passed the 12 month threshold. Get a full refund and take your business elsewhere.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:46 PM on May 14, 2013

Best answer: On the one hand, yes, dual dry clutch automatics behave a little strangely compared to traditional automatics. For someone like me, who is used to a manual transmission, I totally understand what's going on in the transmission and so it doesn't bother me -- in fact, I prefer it -- but you're not me, and there are lots of people out there just like you. Mazda found a way to mitigate the issue in their new automatics by including a small lockup torque convertor; from a stop or on a hill, the car can stay in 1st gear like a traditional automatic (so no slipping/stuttering/rolling backwards) but still get great gas mileage. They're the only ones doing it that way so far.

However, just because that's the design doesn't mean you have to like it, and so go ahead and document everything that's happened so far, plus everything that happens in the future as you get the regional manager involved and so on. Best case, you lemon law the car (even though there's likely nothing wrong with it), worst case, you tried.

Oh, and if the stuttering really bothers you from a stop, try giving it a little more gas than you otherwise would. The stuttering is the transmission trying to slip gently to get you moving, and not having enough engine speed to do so. Ditto the rolling backwards.
posted by davejay at 2:58 PM on May 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Go up the food chain and call Ford corporate. I had crappy experiences with VW dealers and VW of America was very helpful.
posted by radioamy at 4:10 PM on May 14, 2013

Pretty much as soon as it came out, people were complaining about the automatic transmission.

Absolutely try a new dealer. You could also call up the chain at Ford. Considering the above, this may or may not get you anywhere.

Anyhow, it's probably not malfunctioning in a strict sense. It's just not meeting your expectations based on previous driving. Maybe try driving it more aggressively or driving it in manual mode?
posted by everythings_interrelated at 4:39 PM on May 14, 2013

Response by poster: Dasein:
Is the stuttering and lurching really pronounced, or just different than what you've experienced in automatic transmissions?
It's different than what I've experienced in automatic transmissions but it is bad enough that I could get smoother accelerations out of a manual. When you become fearful about having to accelerate quickly (like turning onto a highway from a stop sign) because you're not sure the car will immediately respond when you hit the gas pedal, there is a problem. I honestly don't feel safe in some situations because I never know how the car will respond when I accelerate.
posted by charred husk at 11:56 AM on May 15, 2013

I had recurring problems with a brand new RAV4 that lasted until about 20k miles. The selling dealership only pretended to help, and it was incredibly frustrating.

I got Toyota Corporate on the phone and they got me to another dealer who fixed it immediately. Might be something to try before you get all Lemon Law on Ford, if the car is one you want to keep.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:55 AM on May 16, 2013

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