Ford Surrenders the C-Max’s Fuel Numbers


In the wake of a string of lawsuits over the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy rating on Ford’s (NYSE:F) C-Max Hybrid — which the agency rated at 47 in the city, 47 on the highway, and 47 combined — Ford will be lowering its mileage ratings to fall more in line with customers’ real-world experiences.

The decision to alter the C-Max’s mileage hasn’t come easily for the automaker. Ford tried various tricks to ensure that the vehicle rating matches its dealer sticker including software updates, but those have ultimately not panned out, and the company is now resorting to dropping the mileage figures, ”a rare and potentially costly move,” Automotive News says.

Ford announced Friday morning that the C-Max now sports a rating of 43 miles per gallon combined, and will be offering existing owners rebates on their vehicles. The figure is made from a 45 mpg rating in the city and 40 on the highway, a fairly significant decrease overall.

C-Max buyers will receive $550 from the company as compensation, while lessees will receive a check for $325, according to a company press release. Ford’s group vice president for global product development, Raj Nair, said in a statement that he did not know the total amount the rebate would cost Ford, but that 32,000 C-Max Hybrids have been sold, so that means the number paid out to customers will be somewhere between $10.4 and $17.6 million.

The initial error was attributed to something that’s referred to as the “general label rule.” Ford explains that “these general label rules date back to the 1970s and they were created by the EPA to provide a means to generate fuel economy labels without having to test every single vehicle in the industry, which would have been impractical. … Automakers generate a fuel economy label for a family of vehicles that share common characteristics, such as the engine and transmission and weight class. Tests of the projected highest sales configuration within that family, as specified by the EPA rules, are used to generate the general label.”

The automaker continued: “So, we used the general label rules to generate the fuel economy label for the C-Max Hybrid. The label was initially based on testing of the Fusion Hybrid, which was the highest volume vehicle as defined by the rules. This is why the C-Max’s 47 miles per gallon label was the same as the Fusion Hybrid’s 47 mpg label.”

As far as anyone can tell, no changes will be made to the Ford Fusion Hybrid. However, Ford’s plight sheds more light on an industrywide problem that has become increasingly prevalent as automotive technology progresses: dated legislation that has not evolved at the rate of the industry as a whole. Though it’s a different context, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) has also been running into similar problems with its online sales strategy.

Regardless of what the legislation is saying, Ford is hoping to put this incident behind it as soon as it can.

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