Open Letter From Owner About Focus Electric Drive Failure and the “Stop Safely Now” Warning

4 years ago by Jay Cole 28

This Is Not The Message You Want To See Pop Up In Your New Ford Focus Electric

This Is Not The Message You Want To See Pop Up In Your New Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus owner Richard Spitz, MD has been looking to shine a light on a seemingly ongoing problem with the Focus Electric.  Sudden and unexpected drive failure, and the “Stop Safely Now” warning.

UPDATE (Sept 10th, 2013):  NHSTA has opened an investigation to instances of the Focus Electric stalling when in motion

Crated Replacement HV Batteries Waiting to be Installed In Marc Lee's Focus Electric   (Kent Shockey)

Crated Replacement HV Batteries Waiting to be Installed In Marc Lee’s Focus Electric (Kent Shockey)

Apparently, there are over 20 known complaints having to do with issue, and considering Ford has only sold 1,300-odd Focus Electrics, we feel the number of complaints is probably too many.  So, when Richard reached out for some media assistance, we were glad to shine a light on it.

In fact, we are no stranger to this, as our own Marc Lee experienced the “Stop Safely Now” warning, and subsequent immobilization of his Focus Electrics…over 9 months ago on one of the first few Focus Electrics to be sold.  You can read about his story “I Am The High Voltage Battery Killer” here.

Below is a copy of the letter sent to us from Mr. Spitz accounting his encounter with the problem, along with his interaction with the Focus Electric community and Ford:

In February I decided to take advantage of the aggressive leases being offered by Ford on the Focus Electric.    The financing at that time was $199 a month which made it seem like the perfect around town vehicle.

At around 1100 miles I experienced what others have called the “stop safely now” warning.   During rush hour, with both of my kids in the car, I came to a stop as the front most vehicle at a stoplight at a busy intersection.   When the light turned green, I pressed down on the accelerator and nothing happened.  I though what the…?  Next thing I know, in addition to the other cars honking, a warning chime went off, a yellow wrench lit up on my dash alternating with a warning which said, “stop safely now.”   This wasn’t much of an option as the car was in drive, I had no way to move it to park, and pressing the on/off did nothing.   I noted that there was a warning icon listed on the car’s system via the Ford sync.  I sat there trying everything I could think of for several lights, really afraid we would be rear ended.    Eventually hitting and holding the on/off button made the power cycle and power was restored, and I was able to drive.    I called Ford and scheduled an appointment at the earliest.

At the car dealership they were unable to find an abnormal diagnostic code logged.   I was told to come back if it re-occurred again.   My dealership has extremely limited experience with EVs so I called Ford customer support and spoke with them, as well as they transferred me to the customer support at the EV division.   They had no other suggestions on what to do.

I have since come to find out that my experience was not unique.   Many other Focus  EV drivers have experienced the “stop safely now” warning and loss of power, many after coming to a stop and others even while driving.   There are currently 3 identical complaints on the NHTSA website (one is mine). 

There are over many more which have reported this same error on Focus EV enthusiast sites, and even on the boards on Ford’s own myfordmobile site.    Here is an Excel spreadsheet (link removed due to traffic volume) made by one of the members from the myfocuselectric.com site which shows over 20 people that have had the same identical experience.

The reason I am so concerned about this is that I consider not having any power to avoid an accident is a real safety issue.    The Ford Focus Electric is sold in extremely low volumes and the fact that so many owners are reporting the identical issue points to a singular defect.    The fact that it is such a low volume vehicle could make the total number of incidents seem small compared to Fords high volume vehicles, but it is relatively large percentage of the total Focus Electrics.   It seems that Ford is looking at each episode as an individual occurrence, rather than possible single issue.

I would greatly appreciate if you would consider looking into, or bringing this issue to light.    I don’t want to wait until a Ford Focus Electric owner looses all power on the highway, and someone gets really hurt.   I want to do everything I can to make sure that Ford devotes the resources needed to isolate the problem down, even if there are not a lot of Ford Focus Electrics before that happens.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Richard Spitz MD

Ourselves, along with AutoBlogGreen, reached out to Ford about the issue before today, and this is what Amanda Zusman from Ford had to say to us:

“In regard to your note,the Stop Safely Now warning appears in the Focus Electric in lieu of the Check Engine light that is found in naturally-aspirated vehicles. As with all vehicles, there are a number of different reasons why this warning may illuminate. If a customer’s Check Engine or Stop Safely Now light illuminates, they should contact their dealer.”

Ms. Zusman also added that she would pass this (or other) incidents along to Ford’s engineering team if after taking the car in for service, he (or them) “are still concerned about his vehicle” for a follow-up.

If you are a Focus Electric owner, and have experienced this problem, you can forward your info (name and VIN) onto us here and we will advance it to Ford for you…or perhaps leave a note in the comments as Ms. Zusman says that she “reads InsideEVs daily,” which was welcoming news to hear that Ford is actively taking the pulse of the EV community.

Tags: , , ,

28 responses to "Open Letter From Owner About Focus Electric Drive Failure and the “Stop Safely Now” Warning"

  1. Richard Noe says:

    You would think that Ford would take the cars back, give the owners loaners, and work on those cars 24 hours/day until they found the problem and fixed it.

    Nahhhhhh! Does Ford care? Apparently not.

    1. bloggin says:

      Ford issued a Firmware Update around March to resolve this issue. Owners are reporting to have it done as early as March 6, 2013.

      I couldn’t find the TSB number, just people posting they are having it done……then no more complaints about the issue after that.

      Check out Chris65 from 3/8/13 who had the problem 7 times in one day. He had the Firmware Update and problem resolved. Then he started to complain about the Nav system, where there was also an earlier TSB 12-9-20 to resolve that issue he needed. My guess is he had that update also, since no more complaints http://www.focusfanatics.com/forum/showthread.php?p=4731320

      It seems like Mr Spitz is stuck in complaint mode, looking for someone to broadcast his problem from February, when there is a solution.

      Maybe someone should just ask him to take his car in for the Firmware Update?

      1. Richard Noe says:

        Like maybe Amanda Zusman from Ford???

  2. Jim says:

    I read, “Ms. Zusman also added that she would pass this (or other) incidents along to Ford’s engineering team if after taking the car in for service, he (or them) “are still concerned about his vehicle.”

    Would tell the engineers about this IF there are still concerns?!

    That seems to be a clear example of disrespect, or indicates that she does not appreciate the dangerous that this failure creates: it can very easily turn deadly.
    If I were on that engineering team (I have served as an electrical engineer for 4 different companies), I would most certainly WANT to know about this problem, and make it a top priority to solve.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Hey Jim,

      I’m not sure I did her quote/discussion with us enough justice…I guess I should have been a little more wordy/descriptive (usually not a problem for me, lol)

      Ms. Zusman seems quite willing, if not eager, to hear about this issue, and potentially others, as well as highlighting the issues to the engineering team to go back over the individual issues.

      In this case of the above situation, she said she “would be happy to look into this one.” Naturally, I’m sure she is not ‘happy’ to have a customer experience a fairly dangerous ordeal, but…you know what I mean.

      1. bloggin says:

        Hey Jay, maybe you could contact Ford to find what the TSB # that resolves this issue and post it. I found the NAV TSB 12-8-20(I have a typo above), but can’t find this new one. Owners report having it done, but no mention of the actual TSB #. Still searching….

  3. Bill Howland says:

    This is merely a microcosm of the SAD STATE OF AFAIRS IN AMERICAN ENGINEERING.

    I myself would have been suitable for several highprofile jobs, but was upended by some one who was more fast-talking than I was.

    With 5 to 10% of the owners complaining about this, it is not too much of a stretch to see that 50 % of the owners have experienced this problem… Since about 1 person complains for every ten people experiencing a problem on avg.

    Ford obviously doesn’t care (as can be evidenced by their ‘glue it together’ ev products), and as long as it doesnt forcibly cost them money… This is why I’ve never been enthused about any ford ev products to date, or ANY ford products for that matter.

    \It looks like a more wise decision each day to eschew Fords. And I have 2 evs and am quite satisfied with them.

    1. Taser54 says:

      That reads like sour grapes, Bill. If you cannot get your points across verbally to others, then that is your fault. I suggest that you join Toastmasters and learn the skills necessary to express yourself in a succinct manner.

  4. Josh says:

    Ford could be frightened by this, but they didn’t develop the FFE system (Magna did) and may not be able to solve it internally. So my question to Ms. Zusman would be “who is responsible for solving the issues Ford or Magna?”

    1. Bill Howland says:

      Sad state of affairs when a company like FORD doesn’t know enough about electricity to design their own stuff.. And if they had the least form of a testing facility this problem should have been rooted out prior to sales. Even fisker was better then this, and they were friggin horrible.

    2. Taser54 says:

      This example reveals the perils of not pursing your own in-house EV program and it is a cautionary tale to those that also lease compliance cars.

      I usually shy away from 1st generation products, so I typically avoid growing pains like this; however, if I were to purchase a 1st generation EV, I would purchase one from a company committed to making EVs a mass-produced item.

      It looks like Ford is not such a company at this point in time.

  5. Steven says:

    “My dealership has extremely limited experience with EVs…”

    And this, my dear friends (That’s you dealerships) is why Tesla should be allowed to sell their cars directly to the public.

    1. Richard Noe says:

      +1

  6. Martin T says:

    Ford on customer service is equally as bad as Volkswagen Australia’s.
    I’d rather walk than be driving those brands – especially in EV’s

  7. Aaron says:

    “…Ford Focus Electric owner looses all power…”

    Please, Dr. Spitz, spell check your letter before sending it to Ford. There was another typo, too, but it wouldn’t be caught by spell check like this would.

    Loose = opposite of tight
    Lose = opposite of found; opposite of win; opposite of possession

    Back on track: Ford is obviously selling cars for customers to alpha test. No, Ford, when it comes to safety, your cars should not be LOSING power in unsafe locations, such as in traffic.

    I’ve also seen reports of the Fusion plug-in hybrid reporting a “Stop Safely Now” message. Not good, Ford, not good.

    1. bloggin says:

      There is a Firmware Update TSB for this as of March 2013 to resolve the issue.

      1. Roy says:

        Why didn’t the dealer know about the update?

    2. Positive about electrons says:

      Aaron-
      I think you’re dead on, Ford has chosen to sell a Magna conversion as a “finished” EV but it is so clearly not ready for prime time. There is a reason software goes through alpha, then beta, and finally release candidate steps. The final product is much more polished and first impressions are protected from bad experience with a buggy product. We have a thriving, active EV community out here that would gladly help Ford develop its products for the future. BMW is doing this with its active-E via advocates like Tom Moloughney…put the FFE, C-Max & Fusion Energi in the hands of a test population at a competitive lease rate and tell them to speak honestly. These products won’t have “stop safely” light problems for long, nor would the EPA ratings be way off, putting egg on the Ford badge.

      1. Foo says:

        Fwiw, in terms of overall quality and driving pleasure, my Ford Focus Electric has been the *best* car I have ever owned. At 6K miles so far, I have much ownership experience yet to come, but I haven’t had any issues yet. Plus, the estimated range (76 miles) seems like an under-promise to me… I routinely exceed it (80-90 miles) even with a mix of city and highway driving. The car makes me smile every time I get it in.

  8. bloggin says:

    This is exactly why all manufacturers do a slow rollout of Plug-in and EV vehicles. To work out mass production issues and dealership training/service issues.

    Which also explains why Ford has not marketed the Focus Electric, or lowered the purchase price to be competitive, but offering a competitive lease payment and maintaining majority ownership of the EV.

    Nissan did the same with the Leaf in Japan and very small numbers in the US. Honda is doing the same with the Fit EV, very small market but with no option for consumer purchase….lease only.

    With TSB 12-8-20 for the Focus Electric, the EV range extended to 80EV miles, due to constant improvements in the battery management software, to allow for even more use of the battery capacity. Currently less than 2/3 of the lithium battery is actually used to improve efficacy. The other 1/3 is for safety protocols and to help extend battery life. But improvements in the battery management software, allows for more and more availability of battery capacity for greater efficiency.

    Which means that years later, like a computer, Ford battery electric vehicles will be still improve their efficiency.

    Similar TSB was available for the Energi and Hybrid models also that boosted their MPG, and more hybrid drivers are reporting mpg in the 50s.

    With this issue resolved and no other outstanding consumer issues with the vehicle, we will see what Ford does at the 7/8/13 2014 launch date. Hopefully drop the price and mass marketing.

  9. Marc Lee says:

    Clearly this is a serious issue for Ford. Obviously their “focus” has been on the Energi vehicles, and as has been suggested this BEV is only a toe in the water to test marketplace acceptance and viability of the Magna produced/engineered technology.

    All “Stop Safely Now” (SSN) alerts do not derive from the same fault. There appear to be multiple faults which can trigger it, some minor and others much more serious. Which is akin to the Check Engine Light, in that it can be a very serious issue or just a minor one. Perhaps manufacturers should have a way differentiate the less serious CEL from the more serious CEL?

    The SSN issues I have had would NOT stop me from buying the car again, all things being equal. However, all things are not equal. Nissan has dropped the starting MSRP to 28k for the LEAF and also stepped up to the plate with their battery warranty.

    Given those facts if I were buying a BEV today I don’t think I could justify the higher cost of the FFE, unless I lived in a very hot region and planned to own the vehicle for period beyond the warranty, and even then I would probably lean towards the LEAF based on the economics.

    Yes that’s right the Focus Fanboy is giving the nod to the leaf at this point. 🙂 If Ford is wanting the FFE to be more than just an experiment/CARB compliance car, they are going to have be in the ball park price wise with Nissan.

  10. Dan says:

    The major difference Ms Zusman seems to miss is that when a gas-burning car displays “check engine” it can still be driven. When FFE displays “stop safely now” it loses drivetrain power and needs to be power cycled which can take a few minutes at best, while some drivers report not being able to power cycle their car in this state. This can be critically dangerous in many situations. If the significance of “stop safely now” is indeed equivalent to “check engine”, ie no immediate risk to vehicle or driver, there is no reason the message should trigger a dangerous loss of power. In fact, I believe the FFE’s “yellow wrench” which is a different warning signal is more comparable to “check engine.” The correct comparison to “stop safely now” in a gas car is a stall situation. Like stop safely now, stalling can be caused by any number of problems; like stop safely now, sometimes the car can be restarted and sometimes it is stuck. If 2% of a new model gas car were reporting random stalls while driving, I bet it would be taken more seriously.
    Bloggin, there has been no TSB from Ford specifically addressing this issue.

  11. Jim says:

    Dan’s points make sense to me.

    FWIW, our 2012 FFE is still working fine, and we are happy with it.
    I read this sort of blog to be aware of potential issues, and what can be done about them (like, HOLD the start button, and hope).
    Other steps??

  12. Susan says:

    Hi Jay. I recently purchases 2 YES 2 FFEV’s prior to knowing abiut the Stop Safely issue. The Ford Focus Forum has a growing number of reports on this situation and the NHTSA is starting to receive more reports. I had to admit I love the car but and getting a bit anxious about this serious topic. Have you considered a follow up article? The more owners there are seems to be creating more reports.
    Thanks

    1. Jay Cole says:

      I’ve been thinking about it, its a little tricky though. I have probably talked a good dozen or so owners who have experienced the issue now, and for the most part the issue seems to have been resolved on a case-by-case basis.

      For yourself, that really isn’t of much comfort, as I think what you really want to know is – “has there been preventative steps taken to stop the frequency of the problem.” It seems to be a faulty battery control module not communicating correctly in a lot of cases (but not all)…in any regard it might be worth a call to your dealer to inquire about yours, or to ask to preventatively do a swap/diagnostic/software update.

  13. Susan says:

    Hi there. I wanted to share this with you even though you are probably aware. http://news.yahoo.com/ford-focus-electric-car-probed-u-stalling-while-124252234–sector.html

  14. Susan says:

    Thank you for sharing. Very good article! I am thankful to those that experienced the SSN and reported it. i am hoping for a positive outcome.