Ford reaches new settlement over Focus, Fiesta transmissions

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. has agreed to an updated settlement affecting nearly 2 million customers in a years-old class-action lawsuit over faulty Focus and Fiesta transmissions.

The automaker has agreed to a minimum $30 million in cash reimbursement and has simplified the compensation and vehicle-buyback process, according to a filing with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Ford has spent more than $47 million buying back vehicles from thousands of customers.

The amount each customer would receive depends on how many claims are submitted. The new deal includes $20 payments to customers who say a dealership refused to repair their car’s transmission when they reported issues with it.

The automaker in 2017 initially proposed a settlement that, in part, would have awarded $35 million in cash reimbursement, but it was challenged on the grounds that not enough owners would be compensated.

The proposed settlement is up for final approval Feb. 28 by a district judge.

“Ford believes the settlement is fair and reasonable, and we anticipate it will be approved by the court following the hearing next month,” Ford spokesman T.R. Reid said in a statement.

The Detroit Free Press first reported the revised settlement.

The DPS6 transmission used in the Focus and Fiesta has haunted Ford for years, with customers complaining the gearboxes would shudder, jerk and hesitate. No deaths or injuries have been attributed to the problem, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it found “no evidence of an unreasonable risk to safety,” after reviewing complaints.

Ford in August extended the warranty on certain 2014-16 model year Focus and Fiesta cars with dual-clutch transmissions by two years and 40,000 miles. The company also said it would offer a software update for customers who continue to have issues with the problematic gearboxes.

In 2012, the Los Angeles-based law firm Capstone Partners APC filed the first of multiple lawsuits on behalf of owners who claimed their vehicles suffered repeated breakdowns.

Is The New Audi R8 That Much Better Than The Original?


In 2006, the Audi R8 was launched to much fanfare and quickly established itself as one of the finest sports cars on the market.

Original models were based on the platform of the Lamborghini Gallardo but rather than featuring a V10 engine, initial models came outfitted with a naturally-aspirated 4.2-liter V8 engine from the RS4 delivering 414 hp (420 PS) and 317 lb-ft (430 Nm) of torque. The Gallardo’s 5.2-liter V10 engine was added to the R8 family a couple of years later but the V8 has a unique appeal all of its own.

To remind us of just how special the original Audi R8 was, Vicki Butler-Henderson and Henry Catchpole from Carfection jumped behind the wheel of one while comparing it to a 2019 Audi R8 V10 Performance.

Related: Audi Starts Delivering R8 LMS GT2 Racer, Interested Parties Bring A $398K Cheque

Audi introduced the second-generation R8 in 2015 and, in range-topping Performance guise, its Lamborghini Huracan-sourced 5.2-liter V10 engine churns out 612 hp (620 PS) and 428 lb-ft (580 Nm) of torque. Unfortunately, this model isn’t available with a six-speed manual transmission like the original so, while it has a serious power advantage, it remains an entirely different beast to drive.

Visually, we think both the first and second-generation Audi R8 models look superb but the first-generation model is perhaps the more striking and has a more timeless design.

Which of the two would you prefer to own? Original Audi R8s can be found on the used car market for less than $60,000 while buying a lightly-used V10-powered R8 Performance can easily cost $210,000.



Automakers in China boost transport van output, donate to stem viral outbreak

SHANGHAI — Most automakers closed assembly plants in China for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday but the viral outbreak that has spread across the country, killing 81 people, has prompted many of them to take other steps and precautions to help contain the epidemic.

Ford Motor called back some employees at its truck joint venture, Jiangling Motor, to refit 600 Ford Transit vans into special ambulances for transporting infected patients, according to internet blogs run by Ford’s China unit.

Two state-owned Chinese automakers, SAIC Motor Corp. and Beiqi Foton Motor Co., are also assembling vans to help transfer victims, according to their internet blogs.

The vans will be shipped to central China’s Hubei province and its provincial capital of Wuhan – the epicenter of the viral outbreak.

To contain the new coronavirus, Chinese authorities have banned or limited travel and locked down 17 cities with more than 50 million people.

Daimler, BMW Group, Toyota and Honda and their Chinese peers such as Dongfeng Motor and GAC Motor Co. have donated cash, ranging from 5 million yuan ($720,460) to 26 million yuan to foundations set up to help residents in Hubei and Wuhan fight the disease.

Many dealerships have closed with consumers preferring to stay at home to minimize exposure to the virus that has spread to all regions in China except for Tibet. The death toll is expected to rise, with the number of confirmed cases on Monday rising about 30 percent to more than 2,700.

Dealerships usually remain open during the lunar new year, but industry sales drop because consumers often take a holiday as well.

Wuhan, a city with 11 million residents, was locked down on January 23.

To control the spread of the viral outbreak, Beijing on Monday extended the Lunar New Year holiday by two days to Feb. 2. In Shanghai, the holiday has been extended to Feb. 8.

The decision by the Shanghai government affects companies such as Tesla Inc., General Motors and Volkswagen, which either own factories or operate them in the city under joint ventures with local partners.

Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent Holdings and other major companies asked employees to work from home for one week after the extended Lunar New Year break ends, seeking to limit the spread of the new flu-like virus.

Many large employers are going one step further, telling staff to work from home until Feb. 7 and not return to offices until Feb. 10.

Auto output and sales are expected to drop because Wuhan and Shanghai are two of China’s major manufacturing and retail hubs. January and February are already some of the weakest months for new-vehicle sales in China because of the lunar holiday.

Wuhan is home to assembly plants for Dongfeng as well as several global automakers, including PSA Group, Renault, Nissan, Honda and General Motors.

Shanghai is a major production center for SAIC and its joint ventures with GM and Volkswagen Group.

PSA, which operates three plants in Wuhan with Dongfeng, said it will repatriate expatriate staff and their families from the Wuhan area.

Nissan plans to evacuate most of its expatriates and their family members from Wuhan using chartered plane dispatched by the Japanese government, a company spokeswoman said.

Honda will evacuate from Wuhan about 30 Japanese workers and family using a government charter aircraft, family members and employees visiting on business trips, Teruhiko Tatebe, a Tokyo-based spokesman, said.

Honda has informed the Japanese government that it wishes to utilize a charter jet to evacuate Japanese citizens. A handful of staff needed to maintain local operations will remain in the city.

Renault is offering expatriates from its Wuhan plant the option to leave the country temporarily, a spokesman told the Financial Times.

The only thing that remains unknown is how long the epidemic can be controlled to allow businesses in Wuhan to reopen and car shoppers to return to showrooms.

Bloomberg contributed to this report

Hyundai Super Bowl ad highlights ‘Smaht Pahk’

Hyundai released an early peek at its Super Bowl ad, which takes a very Boston-centric look at one of the tech features on the new-generation 2020 Sonata sedan.

The feature is technically known as Remote Smart Parking Assist, but that’s before a group of Boston-area celebrities put it though the local accent and shortened it to “Smaht Pahk.”

In a spot that will run in the first quarter, Chris Evans (of Marvel Comics movie fame) and former “Saturday Night Live” regular Rachel Dratch watch as John Krasinski (from “The Office”) prepares to fit his new Sonata into a particularly tight parking spot. Evans says there’s no way the sedan will fit in the space in front of a coffee shop.

Krasinski tells Evans to stop being a “smahty pants” because the Sonata has a new trick. “Looks whose got ‘smaht parhk,'” Krasinski says, exiting the vehicle. “Just hit the clicker — ‘cah pahks’ itself.” The Sonata then slowly steers itself between two poorly parked cars.

Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz also appears in the spot, which includes several exchanges that play up the local accent for a variety of words and places, and ends with the tag line “Bettah Drives Us” rather than the normal brand slogan “Better Drives Us.”

The ad kicks off a national marketing campaign for the Sonata, although the 60-second Boston-centric commercial is unique to the Super Bowl. Hyundai will also amplify the TV ad on social media, including TikTok — the first automotive brand campaign on the short-video site, according to the automaker — and on Instagram.

Angela Zepeda, chief marketing officer for Hyundai Motor America, said the Korean automaker has long used the Super Bowl to raise its profile among American consumers, with Super Bowl LIV marking 11 straight years. In the last several years, Hyundai’s ads during the event have been among some of the most popular, surveys show.

“As a challenger brand — and that’s how we still see ourselves in a lot of ways — it’s a great platform. In fact, it’s America’s biggest platform, where everyone gathers that day not just to watch the big game but to watch the commercials,” Zepeda told Automotive News last week.

Barney Goldberg, executive creative director of Hyundai’s ad agency, Innocean USA, said the original idea for the spot was to highlight a technical feature on the redesigned Sonata that makes viewers think, “Why can’t my car do that?” Eventually, they decided on the parking assist, shortening the mouthful of a name to “Smart Park.”

Goldberg said an agency writer with Boston ties quickly saw how the pronunciation of those words could be funny. The Boston way of pronouncing “Park” and “Car” has been a staple of jokes going back decades. The agency then worked to put together a team of Boston celebrities to make the spot authentic and not over the top. It was also shot locally.

Last year’s Hyundai ad, “The Elevator” featuring actor Jason Bateman, was considered a comedic hit for satirizing the traditional car-buying experience. Zepeda said the spot rated No. 1 in popularity by Ad Meter metrics for an automotive brand, and significantly boosted the public’s opinion of the automaker. That’s puts the pressure on for Sunday.

“We had a lot to do this year,” Zepeda said, “because of what we had done last year.”

Austrian ice racing program expands into Ice Week 2020

A year ago, Porsche scion Ferdinand Porsche and his business partner Vinzenz Greger revived a weekend of auto racing on ice in Zell am See, Austria. They’re back, and now it’s Ice Week 2020, with events running from January 27 to February 2.

In addition to vehicles previously announced, the organizers say that cars to be featured include the Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 4×4 (953) that won the 1984 Rally Dakar, and not only will the car participate on the ice track with Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister taking turns at the steering wheel, they will use the car to tow skier Aksel Lund Svindahl in a sport called “skijoring,” in which a horse or a motor vehicle pulls a skier along.

Also added to the program, which this year carries sponsorship from Pirelli, are the Porsche 919 Hybird Evo that holds the lap record at the Nuburgbring Nordschlief, the Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, and famed racing driver Hans-Joachim Stuck plans to “show off” the 1976 Jagermeister Formula One March-Cosworth equipped with dually studded tires on its rear axles.

The organizers expect around 150 cars to participate in the events on ice- and snow-covered circuits.

This article, written by Larry Edsall, was originally published on ClassicCars.com, an editorial partner of Motor Authority.