BERRY: Pontiac, oh how I love thee

I knew the day would eventually come when I would have to get a new car.
Apr 4, 2013


That day came about three weeks ago when I took a new job that required a considerable amount of traveling. I knew my old 1996 Pontiac Bonneville wouldn't be able to handle the strain, and since fuel efficiency suddenly became my primary concern, I knew it was time to retire my beloved vehicle.

The Bonneville was only three years old when I bought it, and it had slightly more than 60,000 miles.  It cost more than all of my previous cars combined.  Originally, my goal was to drive that car for 10 years.  Once I exceeded that goal, I wanted to drive it more than 200,000 miles.  I achieved that goal last summer.  Then, I wanted to drive the Bonneville until my daughter, Evien, turned nine because I bought it when my daughter, Hillary, was nine.  Evien had her ninth birthday last week, and Hillary is a 23-year-old college graduate student.

In 1999, I owned a little red Dodge Daytona with a blown head gasket and worn universal joints.  I never really liked that car much.  It was small, rattled, and needed constant maintenance.  While I was waiting for the Daytona to die, my dad and I visited every used car lot from Grand Haven to Apple Avenue in Muskegon.  I test drove Fords, Chevys, Chryslers, and even an Oldsmobile, but I was never quite satisfied.

Then one day I spotted a Pontiac on a small lot in Fruitport.  The white beauty had a spoiler and  honeycomb rims with a tiny gold pinstripe down the side.  It had a 3600 V6 engine and a cassette player.  Hillary was with me the first time I took the Bonneville for a ride.  She sat in the back seat while I played with the power window buttons.  

The window sticker got caught in the draft and flapped wildly outside the back window.  Hillary reached up to pull the noisy paper back inside the car at the same time I pushed the button to raise the window.  Hillary let out a loud scream when her fingers got pinched.  She had big tears on her cheeks when I pulled the car back into the car lot.  I love Hillary, but I bought the car anyway.

I've owned that car for 14 years.  I picked my children up from elementary school, middle school, and high school in that car, and I drove it to my daughter's graduation from college.  I owned that car when I got married for the second time, I brought my baby girls home from the hospital in that car and a few years later, I picked them up from elementary school.  I've even taken my granddaughter on play dates at the Spring Lake Library and downtown Grand Haven in that car.

I drove that car to softball games, basketball games, and track meets all over Muskegon County, Whitehall, Fremont, Hesperia, and Coopersville to watch my daughters compete.  I drove that car to Muskegon Community College for years until I finally earned an Associate's degree.  Then I drove it to Grand Valley State University through sunshine, rain, hail, sleet, and snow until I earned my Bachelor's degree.  I've changed jobs three times in that car's tenure.

For years, family and friends have been telling me I need to get a new car, but I haven't been able to part with my beautiful Bonneville.  My relationship with that car lasted longer than my first marriage.

Late one night, a few summers ago, I plowed into a bright orange barrel in a road construction zone that left permanent scars on the Bonneville's passenger-side front fender, and rust has begun to form around the rear wheel wells.  

The rubber strip has come loose from the interior doors, so a steady stream of water drips in whenever it rains.  The driver's side window adjustment came loose a few years ago and dangles by wires beside my left knee.  The air conditioner hasn't worked for about 10 years, and the heater core is shot so it doesn't have heat, either.  Also, the carpet in the backseat is inexplicably damp all the time, therefore the car smells like mildew.

Well, life's circumstances prevailed and I bought a new car.  I bought a brand new Toyota Corolla.  The new car is gold with a moon roof, fog lights, air conditioning, heat, and a CD player.  I like the new car, but I don't think I'll ever love it.  I don't know how I can.  We have no history together.  Driving the Corolla everyday is like commuting to work with a stranger.  We don't know what to say to each other.

After signing all the paperwork for the new car, the Toyota dealer asked me if I'd like to trade in the Bonneville.  I just couldn't do it.  The car was worth so much more to me than the paltry sum he was willing to give.  So I kept the Pontiac, but my wife has begun dropping subtle hints that the Bonneville has to go.

I know she's right.  It's silly to keep paying insurance on a car that just sits in the driveway like a rusting suit of armor for a fallen soldier.  I need to get over my emotional attachment to an inanimate hunk of steel and rubber, and to embrace the new vehicle.  I think I'll call the Toyota dealer and see if he'll still let me trade-in the Bonneville.  But if I had my way, I'd park the Pontiac in the front yard and use it as a 3,500-pound lawn ornament.            

— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist



I personally own a Pontiac Bonneville and I love her second only to my mother. I dread the day I have to replace her as my primary vehicle. However, I shall never sell her. I will keep her in my garage even if her sides begin to completely rust off and she has no paint left. One day when I have money, i will fix the car, and she will be sons first car, and hopefully his sons first car. Why GM canceled Pontiac I will never know, but I feel you man. I feel you.


Let me tell you a few things you are about to get yourself into: Restoring a car is expensive, will take a long time (years), you will be subject to burnout, to name a few, but if you do it right it is a most rewarding experience, you may even be willing to do another one. You got a good start, you have the car. In my case I bought a car to restore.

Develop a plan, talk to car people, and most importantly have your family behind you. I learned from my friend; we work one night a week only four hours, concentrate on one part of the car not the whole car, expect surprises and added costs, work will be slow and boring , again to name a few. Four years later my wife and I were cruising the beach on our way to get ice cream.

When I said above, you may want to do another one? Wifey may say the Bonneville is ours, son (we) gets his own, and thus another family project evolves.


Great American car; quality and safety. Made you feel so proud you went out and bought a Toyota. Why GM cancelled Pontiac, I do know.


Glad he went with Toyota instead of Ford...

I bought a new Ford Fusion from Preferred Ford in Grand Haven, and it has been nothing but an extremely dangerous problem that both Ford and Preferred refuse to even look at. It has been back to the dealer six times, and each time they tell me it is perfectly normal for it to:
-slip out of gear when accelerating, redlining the engine, then slamming into the next gear (first time I thought I got rear ended HARD).
-downshift so hard when decelerating from highway speeds that it locks up the drive wheels, resulting in no control of the vehicle for 1.5 seconds.
-constantly bounces in and out of gear while driving (see below youtube link)
-sudden loss of power, and no throttle response (car will suddenly slow down on the highway and sit at idle, no throttle response whatsoever until you unhook battery) NHTSB is investigating this one...
-oil pouring out of the front crankshaft seal, and spraying all over exhaust while driving (I need to add a couple quarts every time I drive it). Can you say fire hazard????
-instrument cluster/SYNC spazzing out
-pulleys on engine self destructing and then Ford would not even tell me the belt routing when I replaced THREE pulleys (there is no routing diagram on the car or in the manual, Ford keeps it a secret).

The transmission issues have been there since 300 miles, and the dealer and ford insist it is perfectly normal; they would not even make note of my complaints in their computer system or test drive the car (I'm guessing to prevent me from initiating a lemon law buyback).

Preferred Ford also lied about the warranty (they advertise a free 100,000 mile warranty, but I later found out the car was only covered for 36,000 on my fourth visit to the dealer for the same issues. They told me a new transmission (which was faulty from new) would be $7,000.

These problems are not just with my car, they are VERY common with any ford with a 6F35 transaxle or 2.5L Duratech engine (google it).

Here is a video I made (never,ind my voice, I was deathly sick) showing these problems and explaining my experiences trying to get this lemon fixed or bought back... I'm paying $440/month for a car I cannot even drive!


Signal, is this the 2013-2014 Fusion, the latest model, or something a year or two old at this point. I only ask because I really like the look of the new Fusion and was seriously considering purchasing one; I won't if this is what I can expect. Obviously, it goes without saying that even if I do purchase a new Ford I will go to Holland, Muskegon, or Grand Rapids; I can't abide lousy service and this is of course what you have gotten. When it comes down to it I will probably get the Malibu but again won't buy from the Grand Haven dealer as they are all owned by the same concern.


It's a 2011 but the issue affects 2010-2013 at this point, as well as other ford models. Any Ford with the 6F35 transmission has this issue. Ford has issued several TSB's that comprise of software fixes, but they do not solve the problem, and in fact, many report it makes the problem worse. The problem deals with an engineering flaw in the 6F35's valve body, which cannot be fixed by a software update.


Also, besides the 2013 being recalled twice because they are bursting into flames, this seems to be another very common issue popping up with them, which ford says is ok.


One more thing, the transmission in the Malibu has many of the same complaints (Ford and GM worked together designing the 6f35) and both cars use essentially the same transmission.

It was a huge engineering failure and nobody wants to take responsibility.


Hey Preferred, besides all the bad press you are getting about the issues Signal is experiencing; I have sent out emails, texts, tweets, to hundreds of my contacts, and asked them to forward it to everybody in their contacts as well. You can't begin to imagine the lost business because of your unwillingness to remedy this issue for Signal. Do you not realize that in the computer age you either step up, or slowly bow out.


It's not just Preferred, it's Ford Corporate as well. I spent a good hour talking with Ford's executive team one morning about this issue, and ultimately they basically said the car is designed to behave like this, and there was nothing to worry about. They also said that since now that my car was out of warranty (after many refusals by them to even look into the issue with my car while it was still under warranty) there was absolutely nothing they would do to help me.

I'm terrified I'm gonna end up killing someone because the transmission locks up and causes loss of control (especially on snow and ice) or get injured or killed myself due to the dangerous issues, or burn up in a fire because the engine sprays oil on the exhaust.

I have a friend with a few independent billboards in the area and I am going to be putting up some billboards about how Preferred and Ford will not even look into the issues.

The only thing I want is for my car to be fixed correctly under warranty, or for them to buy it back for the remaining balance on the loan ($21,000).

I will leave you with MANY more videos of others with these issues:


Not questioning your bad experience, especially when dealing with the service department, but I had a very different experience with Preferred on Robbins Road. I purchased a used Escalade as a result of not being able to keep my Tundra (best truck in the world) due to physical problems,

Dealt with a great salesman (Doc, negotiated a very fair trade, had a problem with the Escalade and Doc intervened and I was given a fair repair split.

I'm sorry about your experience, and in my opinion, Preferred should contact you and either try to keep you as a customer or at least explain in detail what happened. Nonetheless, there are good people who work at Preferred in many capacities (including the folks who work on the cars) and it's pretty harsh to try to keep people away from the Robbins Road operation based on one persons legitimate complaints.

I would go to the regional Sales People at Ford, and their P.R. people, and see if they can give you any satisfaction. Sending them your e-mails and some of the comments would help.


I have only dealt with the people at the Ford portion of preferred. I have talked directly with the executive team at Ford in Dearborn. Right at the top of the ladder with no resolution.


Try the regional PR people - they are the one's that can help - that's their job. I think you have to start with the regional manager contact,


I will give that a try although I don't have my hopes up. Have any contact info by chance for them?

I figured a call from Bill Ford and Mulally would have gotten something done but that did nothing, so hopefully this works. All I want is the car fixed or bought back for the remaining balance.

Say no to new taxes

That AMERICAN car served you well yet you went out and replaced it with a Toyota? I have to ask why?


I had that question as well. Buy American. Signal, I looked at your Youtube video and your odometer is well past 100,000 miles. Did you ever get decent performance out of your Fusion? My Fords have always been solid. It's pretty much common knowledge, however, that the finest performance vehicle and muscle car ever made was the 1973 AMC Gremlin. Mine was a beast, and wouldn't quit.


Yes, the car now has 114,000 miles on it, but the problems (except the major oil leak and pulley issue) have been there since the day after I drove it off the lot. I have a log I wrote down each time I took it to the dealer or contacted them, including date, problem taken in for, what they said, what was done to the car.

The problems started at 372 miles, and when I took it back the very next day, they stated that the car has a 'smart' transmission that learns my driving habits, and that this behavior was perfectly normal while it learns. The problem never went away.

The power loss issue (that the NHTSB is currently investigating with these cars) started at 634 miles.

Transmission had its first lock up while exiting the freeway at 762 miles (exiting at the sternberg exit, wheels locked up for about 2 seconds as the car shifted to first gear at 65mph).

I have a 2008 Ford F250 Super Duty for my work truck, and besides constant cracked windshields and no AC, it has been reliable and has 256,000 miles on it at this point. Like I said, the problems seem to center around the 6f35 transaxle.


Signal, you are not along in your adventure with prefferred ford.

I own a 2012 Fusion SEL with many of the same issues. Isn't it exciting when you lose control of the car when trying to stop because the revs shoot to the red and the front wheels stop turning? It actually made me rear end someone.

Prefferred ford also told me I had a 10/100 warranty when really it was 3/36. I recall his name was Sweeny that told me that.

Just like you the service manager said it was fine and safe even after I hit someone.

Never again ford, never again!

P.S. did they tell you that you could not have the car serviced anywhere else or your warranty would be void?


Yup, I dealt with John Sweeney and he also told me that the car could only be serviced there to keep the warranty valid. It was my first new car, so I did not know any better until much further down the road.


1) Take your car to another Ford Dealer in Grand Rapids
2) Tell them your car is having transmission issues and to reference TSB bulletin TSB 07-26-9.
3) When they resolve the issue, take the doumentation back to Preffered (all of it, not heresay, documentation) and talk to the GM.

This will get your car fixed and should get you "something" from preferred.
If not, contact some Grand Rapids TV Stations, they are all about airing bad customer service and they will take Preferred one step closer to closing it's doors.


After I found out that I was lied to about having to take the car back to Preferred for any service, I took it to Lasco Ford in Holly, MI (at 67,000 miles) while visiting my parents one weekend. While they were quite helpful, they had their hands tied since the car was out of warranty. They quoted me $360 to perform the TSB, which from what I understand is a firmware upgrade for the PCM.

Sadly at this point, the clutch packs are burned up pretty good, and with the crank seal leaking badly on the engine (I am guessing from all the very harsh shifts). It is going to need a new transmission (with a good valve body), and seal, and that doesn't even begin to touch the electrical issues.

I may try taking it in to another dealer again though to see what they say, but at this point the car has 114,000 miles on it (I had to drive across the state every day for work for about six months, 400 miles a day, so the miles racked up QUICK).

The root cause of the problem is that the 6f35 has an aluminum valve body, with hardened valves. Normally, you would have a sleeve in the valve bore to create a good seal with the hardened piston and prevent wear. The 6f35 has no sleeves, so you have hardened steel rubbing along soft aluminum in the bores, and I am sure you can guess what quickly happens... The piston wears away at the aluminum, and very quickly you have internal fluid leaks (many cars within a couple hundred miles); no software update will fix this, Ford is only trying to mask the problem to get the cars through the warranty period.

What happens when you have an internal leak, is that it will take longer to build the required pressure to hold the clutches shut. The car will still 'shift' with lower pressure, but the clutches will slip until the pressure builds up enough to hold them. This only takes about a second to do, but it results in the car feeling like it goes into neutral for a second when it shifts, redlining, and then slamming back into gear when the internal pressure is high enough.

Like I said, no software will fix this, they need to replace the defective valve bodies in these transmissions (and all burned up parts).


Granted Preferred Ford let you down, however, given that you knew something was wrong with the car and did not take it to a dealer or independent shop to have the work done, the extensive damage is the result of your negligence.

I know the resentment you have with the dealer in question, but at the end of the day, the car was yours, and if they did not want to live up to the promise or the warranty you should have gotten rid of the car and taken the loss, or you should have paid for the repairs at an independent shop, or done either of the above and taken them to court.

You are now at a stage where the car has undergone above normal wear and tear and is beyond a reasonable repair point. (without substantial cost)

I'm not trying to blame you, but it is your car. You are responsible.
You had options, and now it appears the only option you've chosen to take is to complain at any given chance, in length. Cut your losses and ditch the car, or hire an attorney and take it to court.

The mean streets of the comments section of the Tribune will not get you vindication or results. You sir must take it upon yourself to bring closure to this.

So I say to you, S%!t or get of the pot, and leave the belly aching to the baseball players!

Say No To Tourist's

Lets face it, all the big 3's have there issues. Some people have really good luck and others have tons of problems like Signal. The dealerships in Grand Haven just flat out stink! Its about the sale only, not customer service afterwards. Like I told Signal in another post, I saved 5K going to Grand Rapids for my 2013 GMC, the dimwits on Robbins Rd. wouldn't give me all the rebates and incentives. Guess what they lost a very large sale. By rights I'm a Ford guy, but the 2013 GMC Denalli really caught my eye and the fact the DuraMax and Allison trans have proved themselves long enough to buy one, AND the service department in GR has a good enough record for me to buy from them. I will say this, if one major issue comes about on this GMC ( Government Motors Corporation) it'll be gone in a heartbeat and it will be Nissan or Toyota for me. My wife just got a Nissan Murano and she absolutely loves it, and we test drove everything out there! I'll tell ya one thing, the Nissan Titan is one sweet truck! Had I not wanted a 2500 diesel. It would have been the Titan for me also. People may complain about foreign cars, there engineering is ten times better than the big three's even though there built in the USA.


i worked for gm for many years and a few times i have seen customers returns cars for stupid reasons like, they didn't like the smell of real leather or just didn't like the car, they were allowed in to by back program, maybe you need to over step the dealer to get this done but not sure how its done, i am another one that will not by from local dealers, i will go out of town even if i have to walk, no wonder the new car buyers now days are looking at foreign cars, america cant build them, lost their edge


Someone else's experience with a Ford. Quite similar to mine...


Why do I think there's more to this story then what we are seeing ? And how can you owe that much money on a car that only cost 23k more or less ? 115,000 miles in 2 years, is it also your house? It seems if you have more then just issues with your car. just saying....


Thousands of complaints can't be wrong... Here's some for the 2011 Model year of the Ford Fusion:

Lots of people talking about the common transmission issues:

And some more...

This is not an isolated case, and as long as there is not a code stored in the cars computer, Ford says it is running fine.


Here is a screenshot I just took of one of the current investigations:

Mad Mike

hey sigman, what dealer do you really work for in Grand Haven? really? like ifits wants to know do you live in the car? you are nothing but a blowhard trying to cause trouble for hard working people at preferred dealers. Get a life and start making your payments you low life scum bag

Mad Mike

hey sigman, what dealer do you really work for in Grand Haven? really? like ifits wants to know do you live in the car? you are nothing but a blowhard trying to cause trouble for hard working people at preferred dealers. Get a life and start making your payments you low life scum bag



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