MIAMI–Consumers nationwide are suing Ford for knowingly selling allegedly defective Shelby GT350 models that while marketed as “track-ready” cannot actually be operated safely on a racetrack, according to Hagens Berman and Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, co-counsel law firms representing the plaintiffs.
According to the lawsuit, after spending a big premium to own a piece of racing history, drivers soon learned that once on the track, their track-ready vehicles can lose speed and power mid-drive, without warning and in as little as 15 minutes.
The firms say that Shelby owners paid high prices for an iconic car named after racecar royalty, Carroll Shelby. Instead of receiving the modern-day epitome of Mustang performance and racetrack-ready power, thousands of owners have been left with pricey vehicles that in no way live up to Ford’s marketing that promised a “track-ready” hotrod, and could put drivers and passengers at risk of crash and injury.
Shelby GT350 owners are being represented by leading auto defect consumer-rights law firm, Hagens Berman, which achieved the then largest automotive settlement in U.S. history – $1.6 billion against Toyota for a concealed defect and Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, a nationally recognized trial law firm. Hagens Berman is also leading litigation against General Motors for its ignition switch defects as well as other national lawsuits against Volkswagen and Mercedes for illegal use of emissions-cheating software.
The ability to purchase a track-capable car that could also operate on the street is a key factor in what led purchasers to buy the Shelby GT350 Mustang, according to the suit, but Shelby GT350 Mustangs with the Base Model or Technology Package model can overheat due to defective transmissions and rear differentials that cannot keep cool enough to function at high speeds without external transmission and differential coolers. When this occurs, the vehicles go into Limp Mode, where the vehicle suddenly loses power and rapidly decelerates. As a result, these “track-ready” race cars prove useless on the racetrack and drivers don’t get what they paid for.
The lawsuit, filed Mar. 22, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, seeks monetary damages for a proposed nationwide class of consumers who purchased or leased the affected vehicles, as well as injunctive relief for Ford’s misconduct related to the design, manufacture, marketing, sale and lease of affected vehicles.
“When Ford marketed and sold these Shelby GT350 Mustangs, it knew exactly how to appeal to track-enthusiasts: it marketed enhanced performance in a limited-edition iconic vehicle that has been associated with racing for generations,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “We believe that Ford induced purchasers with its ‘track-ready’ marketing, when in fact it knew that this defect would ultimately bar these Mustangs from ever being the hotrod consumers paid for.”
"Ford's only answer to owners has effectively been, 'pay for a fix on your own dime,'" Berman added.
The complaint states, “Mustang testimonial websites and Ford customer service files are replete with complaints from consumers who reasonably believed that their Class Vehicles would in fact be ‘Track-Ready,’ but have been put at risk of accident on race tracks and during non-track driving when the defective transmissions and rear differentials overheat, causing the cars to go into Limp Mode at drastically reduced speed and performance.”
According to attorneys, Ford engaged in deceptive business practices in violation of several consumer protection statutes when it failed to disclose the defective “track-ready” powertrain system. It instead continued to market Ford vehicles as fully capable of track performance, safe, reliable and high quality.
“Shelby owners sought these vehicles specifically because they appreciate fast cars and the legacy of the Mustang, and wanted to own a piece of racing history – to live the dream of being able to own a car that could be used for everyday driving and also had the power and performance for the racetrack,” said Stuart Grossman, founder and partner at Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen. “What Ford sold them was nothing of the sort.”
Plaintiffs also allege that the failure of Ford to properly fix the powertrain defects at no cost is a breach of express warranty.
The lawsuit seeks reimbursement and all damages permitted by law for vehicle owners, including diminution in value of the affected Shelby GT350 Mustangs and/or loss of the benefit of the bargain, in an amount to be proven at trial to compensate owners for Ford’s fraud that put drivers at risk. Plaintiffs also seek an order enjoining Ford’s deceptive marketing and sales acts and practices, as well as punitive damages.