Ford Australia has strongly denied claims made by the ACCC today that it mishandled customers suffering through issues with Ford Powershift transmissions.
A press conference held today by Ford Australia CEO Graeme Whickman confirmed that Ford Australia would contest the ACCC's allegations in court, but agrees that it could have handled complaints better.
Speaking to media today, Whickman said: "Ford Australia strongly refutes the allegations made by the ACCC and we will be challenging those vigorously in court."
"The allegations are factually incorrect. We have a distinct refund and replacement policy designed to ensure we meet the obligations of the ACL. Period."
"We acknowledge that some customers may have had a poor experience when the Powershift transmission issues first came to light, and we are sorry for that, and are working hard to fix that. While our initial response didn't keep pace with the unexpected surge of complaints, at no point did we seek to deny customers their rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL)."
"We have continued to improve our customer response time, we have been repairing vehicles, compensating customers and, depending on the circumstance, replacing vehicles."
Mr Whickman stressed that even where customers are experiencing problems with their gearbox, the issue is not safety related.
"Repairs are available on Powershift transmission issues and all new vehicles on sale today have the latest updates. It's important to note that this is not a safety issue.
"The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD), the regulator responsible for safety issues in the automotive space, have investigated this and they have no safety concerns."
That interaction stretched from software replacement through to full clutch replacements. Mr Whickman claims that where customers were still unsatisfied, the company had a program established to keep them within the Ford brand.
"As technical issues arose and were fixed over a period of time, we may have had customers still unhappy with the car regardless of it was repaired or not."
"Where customers were unhappy, we had a customer owner loyalty program where we allowed them to get a discount in the rest of our range, to keep them in the showroom."
When quizzed about Ford's response to customer complaints, Whickman admitted the company could have done better when dealing with customers.
"When this issue first presented itself, we weren't as resourced as we could have been. Since then we have had a tenfold increase in the call centre team, whose sole responsibility is to look after customers as they come in. We have also extended warranties, that's around five to seven years."
Mr Whickman said that while claims made by the ACCC regarding Ford then selling surrendered Powershift vehicles are true, those vehicles were fit for purpose before being sold and in some instances, customers were refunded.
"When we take back a vehicle, that vehicle is assessed by our technical teams and that vehicle is brought back to specifications with the same fix that is already available. We don't on-sell vehicles without ensuring that any technical or warranty items are resolved."
"When we go to case-by-case situations, we assess how the vehicle is presented and the customer's situation. If we believe they are entitled under the ACL for a refund or replacement, we do so."
If you own a Ford with a Powershift transmission with issues, Ford Australia is urging customers to contact their dealer or call on 13FORD to seek resolution.
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EXTERNAL: ACCC – Consumer rights & guarantees