People Like Ford’s Hybrids for More Than Just Their Fuel Economy
If you follow automotive news fairly regularly, you might recall that at about this time last year Ford (NYSE:F) ran into a bit of a tangle when it was revealed that some of its hybrid models weren’t living up to the EPA-backed claims that Ford had placed. This was especially evident with the C-Max utility hybrid, which was rated at 47 miles per gallon combined — though real consumer experience proved that was a lofty and often unattainable goal.
“Since it shares the same drivetrain as the Ford Fusion hybrid, the EPA allowed Ford to apply the same figures to the C-Max — 47 miles per gallon combined — that it awarded the sedan,” we wrote back in April. “However, the Fusion is a far more aerodynamic vehicle, and in the real world, that had profound effects on the C-Max’s ability to actually achieve such a number. An outcry from owners who were having trouble breaking 43 miles per gallon or so period made Ford examine the issue to find that they were right, and the official numbers were lowered to more accurately reflect the car’s true fuel economy. The car is now rated for 45 in the city and 40 miles per gallon on the highway.”
Initially, sales dipped as a result; as it turned out, the stellar advertised fuel economy on the C-Max was its primary selling point. But over time, with no small help from incentives, sales stabilized and WardsAuto is happy to report that they’ve largely recovered since the scandal first broke. The site said that due to the issues — the Lincoln MKZ hybrid saw its mileage rating get slashed by 7 miles per gallon on the combined metric — Ford made goodwill payments to owners ranging from $150 to $1,050, depending on whether the vehicle was leased or purchased, Wards said.
“Our marketing team reported that current owners of those (affected) vehicles did not become dissatisfied,” Ford spokesperson Aaron Miller told WardsAuto. “I believe that the goodwill payments made to our customers helped a lot.”
C-Max sales declined from 2,411 units in August of last year to 1,424 in September of 2013, after the first of two reductions was slapped on its EPA ratings. Sales reached a floor of 947 in January before sales recovered to 1,301 in February. Since then, Wards notes that sales for the hybrid ute have increased in just about every month since.
The Lincoln MKZ hybrid also saw deliveries fall – from 791 in August of last year to 619 in the following month, but they recovered sooner, hitting 852 in November. WardsAuto also pointed out that Fusion hybrid sales experienced a similar result, plunging from 3,694 units in August to 2,265 in September 2013, it said. Notably, it was an off-month for the industry at large, so it’s unclear as to how much impact other factors had on the sales.
This past June, Ford was forced to make another adjustment to the C-Max’s gas mileage rating, bringing it to the current 42 mile per gallon rating for the city, and 37 on the highway, though sales didn’t dip this time around. “We will of course monitor over the next few months, but so far the later part of this year has proven to be great sales-wise for our hybrids,” Miller added.
Overall, Ford’s U.S. hybrid sales were up 2.5 percent through July, to 35,316 total units. That’s slightly behind the industry sales gains of 2.9 percent for the same period, but still commendable given the setback that Ford faced.