US car giant Ford has replaced nine examples of the new Ford Ranger ute in the past six months due to technical faults, but has vowed to respond quicker to customer complaints and reduce turnaround times.
Ford Australia has revealed it has replaced nine examples of the new-generation Ford Ranger ute – including two high-profile cases that attracted national media attention on Channel Nine’s A Current Affair this week – since the model went on sale six months ago.
After being fined $10 million by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2018 for multiple warranty breaches involving other models in the Ford range, the US car giant says it has expanded its Melbourne-based customer complaints division but concedes it still needs to do better when addressing major vehicle faults – and reduce turnaround times.
The aggrieved customers at the centre of this week’s media storm – an owner of a Ford Ranger Wildtrak and an owner of a Ford Ranger XLT – told the television program their vehicles broke down numerous times shortly after taking delivery, and that they were frustrated by the delays in getting their vehicles fixed or replaced.
The footage aired on Channel Nine – owner of Drive.com.au – showed examples of customer cars displaying warnings, digital instruments that had gone completely blank, and images of the vehicle on a tow truck.
Alongside a photo of her brand-new Ford Ranger Wildtrak with a giant ribbon on it the day she picked it up, owner Bianca Fitzsimmons told the TV program: “This is my first brand new car. I was really excited about it.”
Bianca’s new Ford Ranger broke down three times with mechanical and electrical faults within the first few months of ownership.
When a road trip to Queensland was cut short due to mechanical gremlins, Ford was unable to supply Bianca a loan car and she had to get around on foot – while pregnant.
Faults continued to occur after numerous repairs. “The car slammed on its brakes at 80km/h. Being pregnant I’m lucky I didn’t sustain any injuries,” Bianca told the TV program. “The NRMA came out and they said … the vehicle needs to be towed.”
She said the car had a “pre-collision systems failure, parking sensors failure, reverse sensors have malfunctioned, see manual.”
Both the large digital instrument and infotainment display screens went blank. “No speedo, no blinkers, no fuel gauge, nothing,” Bianca said.
Although Ford replaced Bianca’s Ford Ranger in December – three days before Christmas – she said the process took too long and didn’t believe her concerns about the car were taken seriously at first.
“I asked them to replace the car and I got the letter last time saying that under (Australian Consumer Law) this car doesn’t meet replacement (guidelines),” Bianca said.
“It’s not like it’s a pair of jeans. I don’t really think that’s all you can do when it’s a $77,000 purchase.
“I think I’ve been treated disgustingly. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a female, and (Ford) thought they could get away with it.”
Ford Australia has apologised for how long it took to replace Bianca’s Ford Ranger Wildtrak and says it is “striving” to do better with customer complaints.
Meanwhile another Ford Ranger customer, Alex Tomlinson, said he was only able to drive his car for a month before it experienced problems.
“That first issue, the vehicle was in the dealership for at least one-and-a-half months. I was told that I could come and pick the vehicle up,” Alex told the TV program.
“Upon actually jumping into the vehicle, it showed some errors. Day after, same issue again. The car was completely dead. I was in shock.”
Alex is now in a loan car while Ford sources a replacement vehicle.
However, because Alex bought a unique model – a Ford Ranger XLT 4×2 – there weren’t any in stock. His replacement vehicle is being built and should be delivered in February.
“They certainly dragged the process out,” Alex told the TV program. “I wasn’t treated how I should have been treated as a customer buying a brand-new vehicle.”
In a statement to Drive, Ford Australia said Ms Fitzsimmons took delivery of her replacement vehicle late last year and that the company has already agreed to replace Mr Tomlinson’s vehicle – however it needs to be built and then shipped to Australia as it is a unique model.
“Mr Tomlinson’s replacement Ranger is due in February and in the meantime he has been provided with a Ranger as a loan vehicle,” said a statement from Ford Australia.
“We recognise there were delays during that process and we apologise for the inconvenience this caused.”
There have been numerous Ford Ranger foibles and failures reported on social media platforms, the most prominent of which was a batch of faulty tailshafts that would cause the vehicle to vibrate at speed.
A manufacturing fault by the supplier of the tailshafts delayed the delivery of – or required parts replaced on – more than 1000 Ford Ranger utes nationally.
Other Ford Ranger faults documented on social media include blank instrument displays – or digital screens that show multiple images on top of each other.
In these cases, the faulty parts are replaced or the software is updated – and generally do not warrant a vehicle buyback or complete vehicle replacement.
Given the new-generation Ford Ranger has had a rough start, Drive asked Ford Australia how many have been replaced due to warranty concerns.
“Of the 25,587 next-generation Ford Rangers that have been sold since launch (July 2022), we have replaced nine vehicles where cases have not been able to be resolved, or where there have been unreasonable delays in carrying out repairs,” said a statement from Ford.
Ford did not answer Drive’s question about how the number of vehicle replacements for the new Ford Ranger compared to the previous model, but noted: “We take our responsibility to treating our customers properly and our obligations under Australian Consumer Law seriously.
“Where we have had cases that have taken longer than is reasonable or we were not able to resolve to our customer’s satisfaction, we have offered to replace vehicles.”
When questioned if Ford asked or compelled customers to sign confidentiality agreements over warranty complaints and/or vehicle replacements or buybacks, the company said: “We did not ask these two customers to sign confidentiality agreements, and we do not ask any customers to do so.
“When customers have their vehicles replaced we do ask that they sign a release letter that confirms they agree to the vehicle replacement as a resolution to their case.”
When Drive asked how many people work in Ford Australia’s customer assistance area that deals with buybacks and vehicle replacements, the company said: “We have a specialised team that handle vehicle replacements and ensure a quick turnaround in the small number of cases where vehicle replacements are required.
“Since 2016 we have significantly increased the size and capabilities of our team. We have improved training, streamlined processes, increased empowerment of frontline team members, and boosted our capacity to process complaints faster.
“But we’re always striving to do better. When things go wrong we take them seriously.
“Behind the scenes, we have also put a proactive support process in place to speed resolution of issues, so when our roadside assistance partner indicates a vehicle is being towed, a member of the (customer service) team will reach out to them and coordinate with the dealer to arrange a loan vehicle, and work with them to diagnose the issue and provide any technical assistance they need.
Ford Australia says any customers who have concerns about their vehicle can contact one of 60 customer service specialists based in its Melbourne office by phoning 13 FORD (13 36 73).