Last night, Ford Philippines launched the new EcoSport, a much refreshed version of the model they debuted in 2014.
The EcoSport at the time had set the market for the subcompact B-segment SUV, or mini SUV, category. Over four years, the garnering a total sales of about 39,000 units, and had a commanding share of the segment, even with the arrival of newer three row models such as the BR-V, Xpander (semi MPV), and Rush.
But an issue had been brewing abroad with regard to models like the EcoSport, Focus, and Fiesta; three models that were fitted with a dual clutch gearbox called PowerShift instead of a conventional automatic. Built in partnership with Getrag, some PowerShift transmissions were found to have issues with reliability and shuddering at low speeds.
The PowerShift issue is a rather large problem for Ford in Australia, so much so that many customers are demanding that Ford buy back their dual-clutch equipped vehicles despite efforts to extend the vehicle warranties.
Ford's PowerShift-equipped models for the Asian and Australian markets such as the EcoSport, Fiesta, and Focus are all made in Thailand.
The symptom of “shuddering” as described by vehicle owners was initially found to have been caused by defective seals that allowed transmission fluid to contaminate the dry clutch. Despite fixes, many customers complained that the problem persisted or resurfaced soon after; reports indicated that the clutch material as well as the transmission control module had some problems too.
At the 2018 EcoSport's launch last night, we asked Bert Lessard, the Managing Director of Ford Philippines, what steps the company he leads will take or have taken with regards to PowerShift-related customer complaints.
“We've actually had a few customers come in with problems, but they were not a lot,” said Bertrand Lessard, Managing Director of Ford Philippines. “I told them if they encounter a problem with PowerShift, we'll fix it.”
The head of Ford Philippines could not give us an actual number with regard to the complaints over PowerShift gearboxes in the Philippines, but he assured us that there were surprisingly very few. Miniscule was the word he used, but he still left instructions that they were to be addressed as quickly as possible.
“It's on us, so we'll fix it and move on. That's it. Simple,” said the MD of Ford Philippines.
Lessard assumed the senior leadership position at Ford Philippines after the previous Managing Director had been moved to another position back at Ford's headquarters in Detroit. Insider information surfaced that his predecessor had difficulties with Ford's Philippine dealer principals over attempts at overhauling the brand's service standards, after-sales service pricing strategy, among others.
Lessard himself is a veteran of managing the Blue Oval's dealer network abroad, and appears to have worked at improving the brand's working relationship with Ford dealers in the Philippines, particularly with after-sales servicing.
It's also interesting to note that the 2018 EcoSport will not be getting a PowerShift dual clutch gearbox. Ford has instead opted to use something more conventional: a 6-speed automatic gearbox.