Ford to pay B23m to car owners in class-action ruling

More than 300 owners of vehicles made by Ford gather outside the South Bangkok Civil Court yesterday to hear a historic ruling involving their defective cars and Ford Sales Service Co. The company was ordered to pay 291 car owners for substandard vehicles in the first class-action ruling of its kind in the country. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

The Southern Bangkok Civil Court has ordered Ford Sales Service (Thailand) to pay 291 car owners compensation ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 baht (23 million baht in total) for the sale of substandard vehicles in the country’s first class-action ruling.

The court’s ruling, read out on Friday, ordered the subsidiary of Ford Motor Company to pay all 291 customers fair compensation, plus 7.5% interest per year, for repair costs and lost time.

The company also had to pay the plaintiffs’ lawyer a 150,000-baht fee and an 800,000-baht reward because it lost the case as is required by law.

Twelve other plaintiffs did not receive any redress as they had either modified their vehicles or had not taken their cars to change parts with the firm.

The award was for the production of unsafe, substandard and defective vehicles which put drivers at risk.

The firm has to obey the court order within seven days of the ruling.

The problem involved the PowerShift transmission, Ford’s six-speed dual clutch semi-automatic gearbox (DPS6), which some users alleged they had trouble with.

The defective cars in question included the Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus. Customers who bought the cars from Ford Motor Company Thailand only discovered the defect after purchase.

They took their case against Ford Motor Company Thailand, Ford Operations Thailand, Ford Services Thailand Co, and Ford Sales Service Thailand to court last year.

Since all the buyers encountered the same problems, the court allowed the case to be tried as a class-action suit.

Ford Motor Company Thailand, Ford Operations Thailand and Ford Services Thailand were later dropped from the lawsuit, leaving Ford Sales Service the only defendant on the grounds that it manufactured and distributed the defective cars.

Jinna Yaemouam, the car owners’ lawyer, hailed the ruling as a victory for consumers, although he disputed some points of the ruling.

He said he would discuss with his clients whether they wanted to appeal since some still wanted the company to buy back their cars and 12 plaintiffs had not been compensated.

The problematic cars in question were 2011 models of the Fiesta and Focus, according to the lawyer.

Opas Anantasomboon, head of the South Bangkok Civil Court, said that the case originally involved 421 owners but 113 had withdrawn after accepting a settlement offered by the defendant before the trial.

Class-action lawsuits were allowed three years ago under the Act on the Amendment to the Civil Code (No. 26).

Ford Thailand in a statement said that its subsidiary, Ford Sales Service Thailand, respects the court’s ruling which, in effect, recognises each customer on a case-by-case basis, while also saying that the PowerShift transmission in Ford’s cars does not pose any risk to a vehicle owner’s safety.

“This ruling reflects Ford’s position that each customer had a different experience with respect to the PowerShift 6-speed transmission, and that its process of individually evaluating customers on a case-by-case basis is appropriate,” Ford said.

“Ford apologises for any inconveniences caused by issues related to this transmission, and remains committed to helping resolve any outstanding issues through its comprehensive customer satisfaction programmes.”

Ford showed no sign of lodging an appeal in this case, saying the court’s ruling was fair and that they would like to pay compensation to their affected customers.

The Thai-made Fiesta was the most impacted model by this defect as Ford sold over 70,000 Fiestas in Thailand.

Ford’s consumer problems began in late 2014. Ford admitted that there was a problem with the transmission on the 2010-2012 Fiesta models but that this was solved for its 2013 model onwards.

Ford had tried to offer maintenance solutions to affected customers and even announced that it would buy back affected cars only if the Office of the Consumer Protection Board ordered it to do so.

As a result of this problem and the class-action case, Ford’s car sales have taken a hit in Thailand. While, Ford sold 7,295 Fiesta and Focus units in 2014, only 571 were sold in 2017.

At present, Ford is focusing on marketing its pickup trucks in Thailand.

Ford also suffered a legal setback in April in Australia.

The Federal Court ruled that Ford Motor Company of Australia engaged in unconscionable conduct in the way it dealt with complaints about PowerShift transmission cars, and ordered Ford to pay A$10 million (236 million baht) in penalties.

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