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I'm never buying another Ford. I used to be a staunch "Buy American" consumer. As American car companies market share continued to plummet, I continued to feel that it is my patriotic duty to buy American.

Well, I finally woke up and realized that everyone else is right, and that I was naive.

Last week the O/D light came on in my Ford Explorer. I drove it right home and got the manual out to see what the problem was. "Transmission problem" was what the manual indicated, as well as several websites I reviewed.

I didn't worry at first, since I figured this would be covered under warranty. My Explorer is just under 5 years old and just under 60K miles. Surely there would at least be a 60K power train warranty. No one would buy a vehicle if they knew the transmission would only last 59K miles.

Well, the dealer told me a new transmission was needed (5th and 2nd gears were worn down), that it would cost $3500, and that it is not covered by warranty. And to add insult to injury he charged me $90 to tell me the transmission was bad (something I obviously knew) - isn't this similar to stealing?

I then asked him what trade in value I could get (not that I really would buy another poor quality Ford, but I wanted to explore all options). $5500 is the most they could give. I laughed - since I had taken very good care of the vehicle. It told me that they didn't want the vehicle either - so much for them really standing behind their product. They know the quality is poor.

Obviously I was quite irritated. I asked what caused this. None of the possibilities applied since I took good care of the vehicle and had it serviced according to the maintenance manual. In fact, the dealer (Cover Ford in Austin) did the 30K checkup. I spent $1K on that (and probably got ripped off).

I took it to a transmission specialist and had it fixed for under $2500. He informed me that he sees a lot of issues like this with Explorers - probably a poor design and poor quality. Also, judging by various websites there are indeed lots of complains like this.

I wouldn't be surprised if Ford knew of the poor design - since the warranty that came with the vehicle was only 3 yr/36K even for powertrain. If Ford had good quality, why couldn't they step up to the plate and offer 60K or even 100K power train warranty. They must have known the poor quality. In my mind, this is deceptive practice - and I kick myself for not recognizing this as a red flag.

Well, for the 2008 Explorer I see Ford is offering 60K powertrain warranty. So they must have made some improvements (which further underscores their recognition of the poor quality in earlier years). But it's still a far cry from 100K that some vehicles come with. You also have to wonder what other quality issues are lurking.

I think the choice is now clear to me. In the future I will be considering something like a Honda Pilot. Ford deserves the trend of lower market share. Consumers are very wise, and the quality the provide is reflected in their declining sales and marketshare.

Please don't make the same mistake I made. The foreign competition provides much better quality and customer service.

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