April 19, 2024

U.S. federal auto regulators have opened inquiries into Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis after receiving dozens of complaints related to issues that were thought to be fixed.

The National Transport Safety Highway Administration (NHTSA) said it received 82 complaints alleging that Ram 3500, 4500, and 5500 vehicles from 2022 have suddenly lost power due to an internal transmission issue. Sixteen of those complaints described a complete loss of power while driving at more than 25 miles per hour.

“I have had two catastrophic failures of the Clutch Snap Ring that the first time left me and my children stranded on a highway 800 miles from home and took 31 days to repair,” an owner of a Ram 3500 wrote to the NHTSA on August 25, 2023. “The second failure was while driving and almost caused me to be hit because of the sudden loss of power.”

The loss of power is caused by an internal transmission failure of the K1 snag ring, which becomes dislodged. As a result, “forward gears 1-4 are no longer functional, potentially leaving the vehicle disabled in or near the roadway and/or negatively affect the emergency mission,” according to the NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigations (ODI).

Stellantis, the parent company of Ram, Jeep, and Chrysler, issued a technical service bulletin related to the problem in January 2023. The ODI has opened a preliminary evaluation to determine how severe the problem is.

Ford recalls abound

The NHTSA’s inquiry into Ford comes as the company is struggling to solve years of quality control issues. Improving the quality of the carmaker’s products is the “the most important initiative in the whole company,” according to CEO Jim Farley.

The ODI received 86 complaints from owners of model year 2014 F-150 pickup truck owners alleging that their vehicles “unexpectedly downshift to a lower gear without warning, often accompanied by temporary rear wheel lock-up.”

One consumer said the issue caused his vehicle to crash into a concrete barrier and another vehicle, describing how the steering wheel “ceased” and the brake pedal failed to operate. One of the people in the other vehicle suffered a back injury, numbness, and a concussion and was taken to a hospital emergency room, the consumer added.

The issue is similar to the one involved Ford’s 2016 recall covering model year 2011 and 2012 F-150 trucks equipped with 6-speed automatic transmissions. Although Ford issued a fix for the problem, the ODI in 2017 opened a recall query to address how effective the solution was. That resulted in the expansion of Ford’s recall to include some model year 2013 F-150 trucks.

In June 2019, Ford issued a recall for some model year 2013 F-150 tucks over an issue with the remedy.

“I was driving today, around 60 MPH, with my parents in the truck,” an owner of a 2013 F-150 wrote to the NHTSA on March 5, 2022. “All of a sudden my truck slammed into a lower gear, skidded the tires, and everyone was thrown forward in the vehicle. I almost lost control.”

Ford has recalled more than 6.1 million vehicles across 56 recalls last year and has already recalled more than 2 million vehicles in 2024. Last month, the company ground shipments of some 2024 F-150s to a halt after “hundreds, if not thousands, of trucks have piled up in holding lots around Detroit,” Automotive News reported.

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