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Ford C-MAX
Ford sued over hybrid vehicle efficiency claims

Ford is defending itself against a class-action lawsuit brought against it by McCuneWright, a law firm based in California, alleging false and misleading marketing campaigns for the 2013 C-MAX and Fusion hybrid vehicles. The law firm alleges fraud and negligent misrepresentation by Ford and filed the suit in US District Court Eastern District of California.

The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages including the reimbursement for the purchase price of new Ford hybrid vehicles. The main plaintiff in the suit is Richard Pitkin from Roseville, California. Pitkin purchased a C-Max Hybrid vehicle in October and alleges that he has only averaged 37 mpg during that time. That mileage is significantly lower than the EPA rating of 47 mpg.

"In its advertising and marketing campaign for the vehicles, Ford claimed that the C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid achieved a class leading 47 Miles Per Gallon," part of the 17-page suit read. "These materials helped Ford achieve record sales for the first two months of C-MAX Hybrid sales, outselling its rival, hybrid sales leader Toyota, but there was a problem. These ads were false."
The Ford C-MAX and Fusion Hybrid, like many vehicles, are essentially built to “ace the EPA test”, so it can be very difficult for drivers to achieve the rated fuel economy numbers in the real world. For example, the highway portion of the EPA test stipulates that a vehicle should be able accelerate to a maximum highway cruising speed of 60 mph. Ford hybrids can operate at up to 62 mph on battery alone power if driven in the exact same manner as prescribed by the EPA. Once a driver crosses the 62 mph mark, however, the gasoline engine springs to life and the fuel economy drops.
Most major U.S. highways have speed limits of 65 mph or higher, and even if the speed limit is a more “hybrid friendly” 55 mph, most people likely cruise at 60 mph or higher. And one also has to remember that no hybrid can travel on battery power alone, indefinitely – the gasoline engine will eventually kick in to maintain cruising speed.

Ford Fusion Hybrid

Consumer Reports reviewed the C-MAX earlier this month and found it obtained 37 mpg overall with 35 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Similar findings with the Fusion Hybrid found that the vehicle achieve 39 mpg in testing overall.
Fuelly, a website that tracks fuel economy readings from everyday drivers, mirrors Consumer Reports’ findings and shows that 51 drivers are averaging just 39 mpg in the C-MAX. The Prius v, the main competitor to the C-MAX, is showing an average of 42.1 mpg from 219 drivers versus an EPA combined rating of 42 mpg.
Ford isn't the only automaker to find its fuel efficiency claims disputed in court. Hyundai was caught inflating fuel efficiency estimates and was forced to create new window stickers for the vehicle fleet reflecting more realistic efficiency claims.

Source: Detroit News

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Ford's Fault?
By bitmover461 on 12/27/2012 10:07:33 AM , Rating: 2
Clearly the EPA methodology is flawed and this has been known for decades. No one EVER gets the EPA ratings, and the disparity is even worse with Hybrids. Sue the government, not Ford. Relatedly, I won a class action lawsuit against a major home improvement store years ago. I got a $5 coupon that expired before I could use it, and the lawyers got millions.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By ChronoReverse on 12/27/2012 10:31:54 AM , Rating: 3
Interestingly enough, this very articles notes that the Prius does seem to get the EPA rating.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Scott66 on 12/27/2012 10:34:20 AM , Rating: 2
Now it does. It got into trouble a few years back

RE: Ford's Fault?
By superstition on 12/28/2012 10:03:52 PM , Rating: 2
The 2012/13 VW Passat diesel exceeds the EPA rating on the highway, regularly — if the car's computer is accurate.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By EasyC on 12/27/2012 10:54:34 AM , Rating: 1
This is false, I've gotten EPA rating or better on a couple of my cars (00 Celica, 05 Corolla). It's just impossible to simulate how everyone is going to drive their car. The problem here isn't the fact it was off, but that it was off by 10 mpg. That's a big deficit. If people were averaging 45 instead of 47, it wouldn't be an issue.

Also, if Ford is actively advertising better fuel efficiency than a Prius, then it should absolutely be sued if it's not performing up to it's advertisements. Ford could have easily done it's own road testing. They didn't HAVE to advertise with the EPA numbers.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By spamreader1 on 12/27/2012 2:49:53 PM , Rating: 2
2 mpg difference was enough in the Hyundai fiasco.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By ElFenix on 12/28/2012 1:42:08 PM , Rating: 2
iirc, they can't use any numbers other than EPA. so, while i suppose they don't have to shout them from the rooftop, i'm pretty certain they can't just use whatever they'd like, either.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Nutzo on 12/27/2012 11:03:20 AM , Rating: 3
Fords problem is that thier Hybrid design is specifically optimized to the EPA test as opposed to real world driving.
The main reason for the diference is the 62mph top speed under battery power for the Fords. almost all the driving on the EPA test is below 60mph, which allows for maximum useage of the battery.

Toyota's hybrids usually get close to the EPA ratings. One of the reasons is that the top battery speed is around 40mph (depends on model). This means that the cars have to switch to gas power more often during the EPA test.

It's interesting to see that the real world milage on the C-Max and Fusion Hybrid is around 37 to 39 mpg, basically the same as the Toyota Camry hybrid. Seems to be the limit for a car this size.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Brandon Hill on 12/27/2012 11:27:57 AM , Rating: 2
You hit the nail on the head. I was going to post basically what you did, but you stated it perfectly.

The C-MAX/Fusion are optimized for the EPA test.
The Camry/Prius/Prius v seem to be optimized for real-world driving while staying within the confines of the EPA test.

The biggest difference, as you stated, is that the Toyota hybrids have a lower electric top speed which means that their highway numbers are going to be more realistic as the gasoline engine is running.

The thing that doesn't make sense to me, however, is how the Ford hybrids fail so badly in city driving as well. That should be easy to ace.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By RufusM on 12/27/2012 11:51:02 AM , Rating: 4
The thing is, the EPA creates an incentive to optimize for the test is you cannot optimize for real-world AND the EPA test.

In school there are times you knew, generally, what was going to be on the test. Did you study everything or just those things needed to pass the test?

Incentives matter and the EPA knows it. If the EPA test was performed accurately, I don't see how Ford could lose this. If Ford is hiding something in the EPA tests then they need to be penalized for it.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Spuke on 12/27/2012 11:58:37 AM , Rating: 1
The thing that doesn't make sense to me, however, is how the Ford hybrids fail so badly in city driving as well. That should be easy to ace.
Except the EPA does the testing, not Ford. If Ford scores high on the tests then how is this Ford's fault? If the tests don't match real world then the EPA should be sued not Ford. Bottom line is WE depend on the EPA rating, which is supposed to be somewhat accurate and unbiased, to help us make informed decisions. Every automaker uses the letters E-P-A in their advertising literature. IMO, automakers should stop advertising and using EPA figures and develop their own standard and use and advertise that.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Brandon Hill on 12/27/2012 12:02:38 PM , Rating: 3
The EPA doesn't do the testing. The manufacturers do the testing and submit the results to the EPA.

The EPA only "spot checks' 15% of new vehicles sold. It doesn't have the resources to test every single vehicle available on the market.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Nutzo on 12/27/2012 12:08:09 PM , Rating: 2
Most cars are NEVER tested by the EPA. The car manufacture runs the test themselves, using the EPA criteria. This is why Kia got away with lying about thier milage for the past few years. The EPA only test a few random cars, and sometimes cars that show a problem with not meeting the EPA numbers (again like Kia). I'm sure they will test the C-Max or Fusion to see if Ford is reporting the correct EPA numbers.
If the EPA gets the same numbers (or close to) as Ford did during the test, the the lawsuit should be tossed. However, if the EPA numbr are alot lower then Ford's numbers, then that proves Ford did something to manipulate the numbers (like starting with a fully charged battery), and they will lose.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By mosu on 12/27/2012 5:24:26 PM , Rating: 2
Every electric car user charges overnight, so starting with a fully charged battery isn't cheating.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Nutzo on 12/28/2012 10:23:32 AM , Rating: 2
This is a hybrid, not a plugin.
So in the real world you would not be starting with a fully charged battery unless you live at the bottom of a very large hill.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Nutzo on 12/27/2012 12:20:22 PM , Rating: 2
Toyota runs the EPA test in normal driving settings. Most Toyota Hybrids also has a Eco setting (a switch) to improve milage.

The Ford C-Max/Fusion have the ability to optimize thier milage based on GPS information (they basically learn your driving pattern and adjust battery usage to optimize milage)

This is speculation, but my assumtion is that they not only tested in the equivelent of Toyota's Eco mode, but they test the car after the computer/GPS had run the course multiple times and had learned the most efficent way to use the battery. This resulted in the un-realistic mileage numbers. If the EPA buys a car from a dealer and tests it, they will not get the same numbers as Ford, since the car hasn't learned the course yet.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By chimto on 12/27/2012 2:17:21 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently the EPA runs their tests on dynos, so I'm assuming the car manufacturers do the same. If this is the case then patterns of driving based on GPS location wouldn't help here.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By GotDiesel on 12/27/2012 11:15:52 AM , Rating: 2
epa ratings are flawed in real driving situations...
Ford should stop messing around with hybrid and release some of their VERY efficient euro diesels over here in the US.. I'm still driving my 2001 Jetta TDI that surpasses the epa by a big margin.. I still get 50 mpg on the fwy at 75-80 mph and 45 combined.. hybrids suck a$$

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Nutzo on 12/27/2012 12:27:45 PM , Rating: 2
It depends on your driving, you shoudl buy what makes sence for how you drive. In town a Hybrid will get better milage than a Diesel.

If you mainly drive the fwy (and not heavy stop & go like here Southern California), then don't get a hybrid, get a diesel or high milage gas 4 cyl. Last week my old 2002 4 cyl Camry got 38MPG on a 30 mile 99% hwy trip. (we kept the speed down to 70MPH)

However, if you drive over 10K miles a year, and it's 95% in town, then you really should look at a hybrid.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By drlumen on 12/27/2012 11:55:53 AM , Rating: 2
I agree that this is more an issue of the EPA than that of Ford. Of course Ford is going to abide strictly by the EPA guidelines. If not, there would be some type of brand specific guidelines and ratings that would be different for every maker. Then we would be left with trying to make sense out of 100's of different manufacturer mileage ratings and pages of legalease fine print in all the different "ratings".

Just a case of money grubbing and sour grapes if you ask me...

RE: Ford's Fault?
By SAnderson on 12/27/2012 12:53:19 PM , Rating: 2
I've gotten the EPA rating before on several cars. You sir, have a lead foot and hire crappy lawyers.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By Voldenuit on 12/27/2012 2:58:13 PM , Rating: 2
While you raise many salient points (the flawed methodology of the EPA tests, the poor payouts to consumers from class action suits), you are incorrect that EPA ratings are unrealistic.

Many manufacturers post EPA ratings that are entirely achievable, and the disparity is much greater when (for example) Prius users are getting better real-world figures that are a lot closer to the manufacturer claims. Clearly Ford is gaming the system at the expense of real-world performance in an attempt to boost sales, but that doesn't mean every other carmaker is in on the scam.

I get up to 29 mpg highway out of my Lancer Ralliart (EPA rating 25 mpg), less on short trips and when the weather's cold, but I rarely get worse than 25 on the highway, and definitely not as large a discrepancy as everyone (car reviewers included) has been finding with the C-MAX.

Yes there are problems with the EPA testing system, but that doesn't mean Ford gets a free pass on scamming consumers.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By idiot77 on 12/27/2012 5:53:51 PM , Rating: 2
You're right, nobody gets the EPA estimated. I get better than the labeled EPA estimate on my '11 Ford Fiesta.

It's called "learning how to drive economically" by not gunning it off the line, timing lights, and using a revolutionary device called "cruise control" something that New Englanders think is a 'weakness' somehow.

It's all the skill of the driver on these high efficiency vehicles as far as I can tell.

RE: Ford's Fault?
By SAN-Man on 1/1/2013 5:18:08 PM , Rating: 2
No one EVER gets the EPA ratings...

My experience with cars and Ford products in general doesn't agree.

By rika13 on 12/27/2012 10:07:41 AM , Rating: 2
The thing is that the EPA tests are still inaccurate. Our boat 2008 Impala gets better mileage than the EPA says it is supposed to because my roommate actually uses the cruise control. If you care about mileage, then keep your foot out of it, use cruise control, and such instead of doing big, smoky, fun burnouts when you leave a stop sign.

By Brandon Hill on 12/27/2012 10:14:30 AM , Rating: 2
If you care about mileage, then keep your foot out of it, use cruise control, and such instead of doing big, smoky, fun burnouts when you leave a stop sign.

As I said in my post above, people who buy hybrids fit into the first part of your statement. They do not fit the mold of the latter part of your statement.

In essence, the client-base for the Fusion Hybrid/C-MAX SHOULD be getting EPA or better numbers out of their vehicles pretty easily. And to take it even further, people who use Fuelly are the most rabid MPG freaks out there. Even their averages don't come close to EPA.

By Roffles on 12/27/2012 1:31:48 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. It's all about driving technique. Maybe my car is an extreme example, but I drive a Lexus IS-F rated at 16/23 (18 combined) by the EPA. If you put the car in cruise control at 65mph on the freeway (the speed limit where I live), the car will easily give you 29-30mpg. But stomp on the throttle and it will drink gasoline like a pig. I've averaged 28mpg on some tanks and 14mpg on others and I wasn't surprised by either result. You have to be conscious of how you're driving.

By Brandon Hill on 12/27/2012 2:11:59 PM , Rating: 2
What you say is true, but hybrid drivers tend to be the most fuel conscious drivers on the road. I think that is the whole issue -- even they can't hit the numbers.

By ElFenix on 12/28/2012 1:43:14 PM , Rating: 2
some of the guys over at c-max forums are starting to get the rated ratings as they learn more about how to drive the car.

By Voldenuit on 12/27/2012 3:04:57 PM , Rating: 2
Several reputable car review sites have tested the C-MAX and have all been unable to meet Ford's published EPA figures. It's especially damning when they all get the same results as the general public (~37-38 mpg) which is 10 mpg lower than Ford's claims.

Which is more likely, collusion on a massive scale by the general public, or Ford inflating mpg numbers to boost sales? Even if Ford is innocent in this matter (which I very much doubt), it is in the consumers' and industry's best interests that discrepancies such as this be investigated and punitive measures instituted to discourage future attempts to mislead the public.

By Dr of crap on 1/2/2013 10:24:49 AM , Rating: 2
REALLY - For how many years has the EPA stated mileage on the window stickers been looked at by people and laughed at or eyebrows raised in disbelief?

It is basically a "guideline", not a set in stone you WILL get this MPG number. There is NO WAY a testing setup could be constructed that would make every person get the stated mpg on the sticker.

Why weren't there law suits years ago?
Why now and why would ANYONE do it?
We are so sue happy and class action happy in this country now it's crazy. It's all about getting some cash in your pocket by using the courts - all crap! I'd never even think to take the car makers to court because of mpg that I couldn't get. Same as I'd not taking a gun maker to court because my kid was shot by a crazy guy! And yes that last one is happening!

By sprockkets on 12/27/2012 9:57:06 AM , Rating: 3
Your mileage may vary, literally...

RE: .
By Brandon Hill on 12/27/2012 10:05:30 AM , Rating: 2
YMMV is plus or minus a few MPG. YMMV does not mean a difference of 8 or 10 mpg. That is like a WTFISGOINGON difference :) And people who buy hybrids tend to be tree huggin', eco-conscious, hyper-miling people anyway, so if even they can't hit the EPA ratings, something is amiss.

If a vehicle is rated at 47 city, 47 highway, you'd expect to be able to hit close to at least ONE of those figures. In fact, you'd think that the city rating would be easier to hit because you can take more advantage of low-speed battery-only power and shutting off the engine.

Well, that's my take at least...

RE: .
By Rukkian on 12/27/2012 3:35:35 PM , Rating: 2
While I do think that Ford either made sure the test came out good, or just optimized for it instead of real-world numbers, I would not say that your generalization is correct. I see so many supposedly tree-huggers in their priuss (prii?) going 80 down the interstate weaving in and out of traffic. While there may be many that drive more sane, I know that there are many that do not.

I typically go the speed limit (maybe a little over) and get passed by hybrids all the time.

RE: .
By ElFenix on 12/28/2012 1:49:20 PM , Rating: 2
3 mpg at 20 mpg overall is 7.5 mpg at 50 mpg overall. so, if ymmv can include the first, it most definitely should also include the second.

Easy Money
By btc909 on 12/27/2012 2:18:41 PM , Rating: 2
I KNEW this was coming. It's so easy to prove. Not a single known independent test were able to get anywhere close to Ford's 47 mpg EPA figures. Most were right around the 37-38 mpg range. I liked the C-MAX but I won't consider one if Ford chooses to lie or play the Hyundai 1-2 mpg reduction garbage.

RE: Easy Money
By Nutzo on 12/28/2012 10:29:54 AM , Rating: 2
I was considering the C-Max, but the main reason I removed it from my list was the lack of a spare tire. This discrepancy just shows me I made the right decision.

If Ford fudged the mpg figures...
By Beenthere on 12/27/2012 10:21:23 AM , Rating: 1
...then they should be sued and fined by the EPA. If however Ford's claimed mpg figures are legitimate and this is just a difference in actual mpg vs. EPA test procedure mpg, then the case should be tossed as it's a $$$$$ fishing adventure for the classless paid liars.

By Just Tom on 12/30/2012 11:48:11 AM , Rating: 2
Are you saying that if the EPA tested these cars and found Ford lied about the mpg ratings than those people who bought the car should get nothing?

Different issues
By knutjb on 12/27/2012 12:05:36 PM , Rating: 2
Ford isn't the only automaker to find its fuel efficiency claims disputed in court. Hyundai was caught inflating fuel efficiency estimates and was forced to create new window stickers for the vehicle fleet reflecting more realistic efficiency claims.
Hyundai put different numbers on the window sticker from what came from the test cycle. There is no evidence that FORD did that.

Most major U.S. highways have speed limits of 65 mph or higher, and even if the speed limit is a more “hybrid friendly” 55 mph, most people likely cruise at 60 mph or higher. And one also has to remember that no hybrid can travel on battery power alone, indefinitely – the gasoline engine will eventually kick in to maintain cruising speed.
How you drive affects your mpg. I see quite a few cars driving well below the limit, most ~ about 7 are prius that I see on my daily drive. I live in a small area where the highway is 2-3 lanes. I don't know the site that tracks mpg, does it ask for typical driving habits? The Motor Week review showed about the same as the other sources but said they drove the c-max in a "spirited" driving style because the car is more fun to drive and has a lot more power than the prius. There are too many unknown variables to come to an assumption, let alone a conclusion. No, I didn't say there isn't a problem, it isn't percentage wise as big as the Honda of Toyota issues over the last decade. Most people will get better mpg in a boring to drive car, its our nature.

As for the law suit, what a waste of money. The lawyers will walk away with fat pockets, the drivers nil. Except for an extraordinarily limited production vehicle which I can't afford, I don't buy the first ones off the line. I want to know about reliability, safety, and economy issues.

Escape Hybrid
By basbrian on 12/27/2012 12:16:11 PM , Rating: 2
I own a 2.5 year old Escape Hybrid rated at 34/31. I typically get 35/31 (better with less wind and worse with more). My mixed driving comes in close to 34 (and am normally driving a wee bit faster than most people). I, however, don't "race to red lights" like some.

This is the old system (NiMH) in a 3500 lb vehicle shaped like a brick wall going down the road. I don't see how the newer system, in a far more aerodynamic vehicle weighing about 1000 lbs less, would only get 3 more MPG. Granted, 47 MPG may not be attainable by the average driver, but 37? (worse than the previous Fusion) I think the chances are more pointed at a very special driver behind the wheel... the kind I smile and nod at as they attempt to drive down the road.

By chµck on 12/27/2012 1:51:34 PM , Rating: 2
If you've ever been passed by a hybrid on the highway, you'll know the driver is the problem, not the car.

By CMaxChat on 12/27/2012 5:33:04 PM , Rating: 2
Lawsuit: 'The members of the Class, all of whom purchased the subject vehicles manufactured and sold by HYUNDAI are “consumers”' I guess I didn't know the C-Max and Fusion Hybrids were sold by Hyundai now.

MPG not withstanding...
By Fnoob on 12/30/2012 5:46:53 PM , Rating: 2
You must admit that this body style is a huge step forward in allure. My 2010 4-cylinder averaged about 450-475 miles on a tank of gas - never bothered to convert that to mpg as it was a company car and I really didn't care. I believe that was with a 16 gallon tank and mostly highway miles. I can only assume that things have improved since then.

City mileage - stop and go, stop and go, etc - if you are one of those idiots who race from red light to red light, you aren't concerned with mpg. Keep things under 2000 rpm or so and you should see better mpg. There exists an entire group of extremist "hyper-milers" who baby their cars from light to light and generally return mpg numbers that actually exceed the 'ambitious' (at best) EPA numbers posted on the window sticker. It all depends on how hard you delve into the throttle. Period. If you are trying for the minimum quarter mile times for every launch from a red light - you will NOT get anywhere close to the posted numbers.

But personally, as a Fusion lover - it's overall ride quality, mpg highway (*with 4cyl), and the beloved SYNC system for us nerds - I really like the new body style and wish I needed a new car, as I would buy one in a heartbeat. The hybrid, no. But their SEL with a 4cyl - absolutely. The older 10-11 series with a 6 cylinder was a rocket by comparison off the line, if that is what you are after - but then you are not worried about the mpg - which then dips to 300-350 miles per tank full.

Just my 2c. Most hybrid cars have carry a premium cost that is almost never made up for over the life of ownership. Do the math on your own. Perhaps it works for you. Regardless, the new body style is a huge improvement over the previous model... And once you have grown accustomed to using the SYNC system, you will never be pleased with a car that doesn't have it. But I digress I suppose, as that is not the intent of this article. Just my personal opinion, having driven Fusions from the 08 series, and 2010. I really want a 13 - but will not be paying the premium for the hybrid - just whatever model ensures that I have their SYNC option.

Happy shopping, and a Happy New Year to all DT'ers.


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