According to a report in Automotive News, Ford will announce that it will be lowering the fuel economy rating on the C-Max Hybrid this Friday, a move that signals a blow to the company’s reputation, and could potentially cost it millions. After spending months trying to find a way to avoid this issue, the announcement will be in response to lawsuits and criticism for lower-than-expected fuel economy for a few of the company’s newer models.
Ford isn’t the first company to have to lower its original fuel economy claims. Hyundai and Kia changed their numbers this past Novembers after the EPA discovered that these brands had submitted flawed test result. Four Hyundai and Kia nameplates that previously advertised 40 mpg highway had to create new labels showing either 36 or 38 mpg highway. Kia and Hyundai compensated buyers of those vehicles with pre-paid gas cards.
Thanks to the lawsuits and criticism of the C-Max’s fuel economy ratings, Ford is taking a blow to its image of being a fuel economy leader. The projected 47 mpg highway was the center of C-Max advertising, pitting it against the Toyota Prius V. One lawsuit filed in California was dropped in February, while another in Massachusetts is awaiting a hearing.
Both the Ford Fusion and C-Max hybrid vehicles were rated at 47 mpg highway, although both receiving much lower real-world fuel economy, with the Fusion getting 39 mpg, while the C-Max was only able to get 37 mpg. This jives with our own experience with the 2013 Ford C-Max, where our test vehicle averaged 38.2 mpg over the course of a week of mixed driving. In order to protect its image, Ford is partnering up with the EPA to find better testing methods for hybrid vehicles, saying that fuel economy varies depending on driving style and weather conditions.
Raj Nair, Group Vice President, Global Product Development at Ford Motor Company, told Automotive News that “It is important to note that we have designed our hybrids to drive exactly the same as all our other vehicles, with the global Ford DNA. A key part of that DNA is ‘fun to drive.’ We could have detuned the vehicles to maximize fuel economy like some of our competitors have done, but it would have been at the expense of a fun driving experience.”
UPDATE: Ford held a press conference discussing the reasons behind the decision to change the mpg label on the Ford C-Max. According to Raj Nair, the EPA labels represent general testing for vehicles with the same engine, transmission, and weight. The vehicle with the highest volume in the group will have its mpg rating labeled for the other vehicles. For instance, the Ford Fusion and Ford C-Max fall in the same group, and as the Fusion offers higher volume, the C-Max adopted its mpg label. However, with the plug-in models of both vehicles, the C-Max has the highest volume, making the Fusion take its rating, even though it may have higher fuel economy.
Ford and the EPA are working on a way to figure out the discrepancies in mpg with hybrid vehicles, including how driving styles, weather, and break-in mileage contribute to overall fuel economy numbers. The Ford C-Max is currently being tested separately for more accurate fuel economy numbers, and Ford has lowered the 47 mpg label to 43 mpg. To deal with the discrepancy and to keep customers satisfied, Raj Nair announced that the automaker will be making a one-time goodwill payment to owners and lessees of the 2013 Ford C-Max. Owners will be receiving a $550 payment, where lessees will receive $325. This payment was calculated by the number of miles driven, fuel costs, label differences, as well as length of ownership. So far, Ford has sold or leased 3,200 C-Max vehicles.
During the press conference, questions were asked about whether testing procedures will be changed, and although there is currently no plan set to change the criteria for hybrid fuel economy testing, both the EPA and Ford are trying to work out different ways of testing, as well as the methodology of grouping certain vehicles together. At this time, Ford does not intend to revise any other fuel economy labels.
Source: Automotive News