When the Ford C-Max Hybrid rolled out last fall, the Blue Oval made a big deal about the Prius-rivaling 47 mpg rating. Unfortunately for Ford, real world driving results were nowhere near Ford’s mpg claims, launching both lawsuits and a Federal investigation. The end result cost the C-Max 4 mpg, and Ford millions of dollars in restitution payments.
Going forward, the Ford C-Max Hybrid will be rated at 43 mpg; 45 in the city, and “only” 40 mpg on the highway. Initial tests had pegged the Ford C-Max at just 41 mpg, but a software update from Ford grabbed an extra 2 mpg. That is little solace for customers who though they were buying a domestic rival to the hybrid king, the Toyota Prius. Even though initial sales were strong, so were expectations of fuel economy. In our review, writer Christopher Tracy struggled to get even 40 mpg in city driving.
To make up for the difference in fuel economy, Ford will issue rebates worth $550 to C-Max buyers, and $325 to leasees, and accepting the payment will no doubt make Ford immune to further litigation. No word on if this mpg revisal will also affect the new Ford Fusion Hybrid, which suffers from similar complaints, or the plug-in hybrid C-Max Energi. This is similar to the move Hyundai and Kia made for “over-estimating” the mpg of some 900,000 vehicles.
So how did Ford get the C-Max Hybrid’s mpg rating so wrong? The Blue Oval blames the “general label” rule, which allows automakers to apply a formula to find out average fuel economy, rather than actually test every car it builds.The rule comes from the 1970s, when documenting the fuel economy for every new car was probably impractical.
But with today’s advances in technology, maybe it is time to make automakers test every single car, rather than take their best guess at fuel economy numbers. I’m a huge Ford fan, but it would seem to me that if you’re going to make a Prius competitor, and make a big deal about your fuel economy numbers, you had better be damn sure those numbers are accurate.
That seems like Business Sense 101 to me, but maybe that’s why I’m a writer and not a CEO. Regardless, Ford looks pretty silly right about now, don’t it? You can read the whole mea culpa press release on the next page.