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Auto blogFri, 29 Mar 2013 13:31:00 EST
A total of 20 Ford customers are suing the automaker in a class-action lawsuit for selling vehicles "vulnerable to unintended acceleration." According to Reuters, the suit names 30 models built between 2002 and 2010 with electronic throttle control systems but without a brake override system. Those include the 2004-2012 F-Series pickups and the 2005-2009 Lincoln Town Car. Adam Levitt, a partner with the law firm of Grant & Eisenhofer says the plaintiffs in the case want "to be compensated for their economic losses by having overpaid for cars that contained defects." Levitt contends that the plaintiffs would not have bought their vehicles or paid less for them had they known there was no brake override system in place.
Ford began installing brake override systems in its vehicles beginning in 2010. In response to the lawsuit, Ford has pointed to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that indicated that unintended acceleration is mostly caused by driver error, saying in a statement that, "NHTSA's work is far more scientific and trustworthy than work done by personal injury lawyers and their paid experts."
Belville et al v. Ford Motor Co. will be heard in US District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.
Last week, in the midst of Detroit's first days seeking relief in Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code, Automotive News contributor Larry P. Vellequette penned an editorial suggesting that American car companies raise the white flag on dual clutch transmissions and give up on trying to persuade Americans to buy cars fitted with them. Why? Because, Vellequette says, like CVT transmissions, they "just don't sound right or feel right to American drivers." (Note: In the article, it's not clear if Vellequette is arguing against wet-clutch and dry-clutch DCTs or just dry-clutch DCTs, which is what Ford and Chrysler use.) The article goes on to state that Ford and Chrysler have experimented with DCTs and that both consumers and the automotive press haven't exactly given them glowing reviews, despite their quicker shifts and increased fuel efficiency potential compared to torque-converter automatic transmissions.
Autoblog staffers who weighed in on the relevance of DCTs in American cars generally disagreed with the blanket nature of Vellequette's statement that they don't sound or feel right, but admit that their lack of refinement compared to traditional automatics can be an issue for consumers. That's particularly true in workaday cars like the Ford Focus and Dodge Dart, both of which have come in for criticism in reviews and owner surveys. From where we sit, the higher-performance orientation of such transmissions doesn't always meld as well with the marching orders of everyday commuters (particularly if drivers haven't been educated as to the transmission's benefits and tradeoffs), and in models not fitted with paddle shifters, it's particularly hard for drivers to use a DCT to its best advantage.
Finally, we also note that DCT tuning is very much an evolving science. For instance, Autoblog editors who objected to dual-clutch tuning in the Dart have more recently found the technology agreeable in the Fiat 500L. Practice makes perfect - or at least more acceptable.
Ford's long-dormant Escort nameplate returned affixed to a sedan concept at last year's Shanghai Motor Show. While not exactly a beauty, it showed a clean, straightforward take on Ford's current styling. The Blue Oval said at the time that it wanted to create a model that was stylish "but not one that is arrogant or pretentious." Job done. A year later, it looks like the minimalist vehicle might make its production debut at the Beijing Motor Show.
Autocar claims that the streetgoing version has been confirmed to it for the upcoming show, but so far, Ford isn't saying. If unveiled, the Escort is likely to be produced locally for the Chinese market with a domestic partner. Powertrain details remain a secret, but it seems highly likely that any production model would use a small three- or four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. Sales in other major world markets like ours are unlikely, but a test car was recently spotted in Europe.
Autoblog contacted Ford for confirmation, but the automaker demurred, with a spokesperson saying only, "At the moment, we are not confirming any vehicles planned for the show." It looks like we will have to wait to know for sure.