Every automaker — from the most elite luxury supercar builder to the biggest selling consumer brand master — faces a stumble occasionally. The process of designing, engineering, manufacturing and distributing new cars offers so many opportunities for something to slip through the quality control cracks sometimes.
When those errors arise, one dreaded word echoes throughout the automotive world and clean into the mainstream news day: Recall. No automaker wants to face that reality. A recall means expensive efforts to repair a hereditary defect in a given car. It also gives rival companies something to point at when working to convince buyers their cars are the most reliable.
It was a tough year for Ford in the recall department as 2016 was marked with general alerts on multiple vehicle classes. Ford’s status as America’s biggest and the world’s third largest car builder isn’t under siege, but it’s not a year that’s going down in Dearborn, Mich. history as one of the best.
However, when that ugly “recall” word arrives, the test of a major automaker resides in how well the company responds to the need of repairing the mistakes and getting buyers’ cars back out on the road. It’s rare that any journalist has a chance to test a recall response directly, but that’s the chance that turned up when a relative’s car fell under a recall sweep and needed to return to Ford Service for refitting.
The car in question is a 2011 Fiesta with an automatic transmission. The clutches on those transmissions tended to fail in low gears, causing cars to buck and hesitate until rolling into second or third gears. When this 2011 version began to do just that, the owner turned to this car writer relative to see what she needed to do to get the car put back together by Ford’s procedures.
The experience essentially became a test of the Ford Service system. There was a wait for parts as thousands of Fiestas were looking to heal their clutches. However, after a phone call to Ford Service’s HQ to explain the severity of this Fiesta’s affliction, Ford reps made certain parts were diverted for the 2011 patient.
Within a week, the car was in an official Ford Service Center and undergoing free refit surgery. Once it emerged and received that all-important first test drive, it was quickly clear the transmission was healthy again and the car was free if its recall blues.
In the end, that’s all that really matters in the service process. When errors happen and problems find their way inside cars, an automaker proves its worth once the car is made whole again. While Ford must be happy to see the backside of 2016, the automaker passed this small test of its recall service program with flying blue badge colors.