Thankfully, this Ford tranny defect happened several decades ago, so it’s nothing we should be worrying about today. But given the recent scandal going on with Volkswagen, it’s always a good idea to look back on history and see some notes regarding the automotive industry. Perhaps it may keep us on the right footing when things go wrong, as we’re sure VW’s looking carefully into their future for the market.
Let’s Move on From the Pinto and Go to This Horrible Debacle of a Ford Tranny Defect!
Ford just doesn’t get much luck, does he? Recalls seem to be the common deal for such an automaker, and even while the Ford Pinto was nothing but a disaster, it turned out that Ford faced another catastrophe in a recall back in 1980 once the NHTSA discovered Ford’s automatic transmissions between 1966 and 1980 were defective — as in the Ford tranny defects would cause the cars to go in reverse. Yes, go ahead and let your jaws drop. Everyone’s nightmare behind the wheel.
Sadly, this was another case where Ford simply neglected to deal with the issue since 1972, knowing that there was this apparent Ford tranny defect. Shame on you, Ford. The company even rejected an improvement to the design that would cost them an easy three pennies per vehicle and opted to just simply pay off victims and families a hefty $20MM sum for their troubles.
At the time, it seemed more convenient to do just that. But in hindsight…. Really, what was Ford thinking?
Of Course, This Ford Tranny Defect Fiasco Didn’t End With Such a Settlement
It turned out that the Ford tranny defect actually caused well over 700 accidents, over 250 injuries and over 20 accident-related deaths. The NHTSA couldn’t just sit there — they were going to declare an apocalyptic 23MM-car recall, which would’ve likely sent Ford to the grave, but who came to the automaker’s rescue? None other than President Reagan who issued out a compromise as Ford pleaded poverty in the worst way.
What was the solution? Ford ended up issuing out 23MM stickers to all Ford owners, reading “make sure the gear selector lever is fully engaged in park” and to also “fully engage the parking brake” before turning off the car. Smart. And that was apparently enough to dodge the disastrous recall that would’ve been heard globally.
Ford got super-lucky.