Ford has restated fuel economy results for several models from 2013 and 2014, revising them downward to make them more realistic for consumers. The action comes in response to an internal audit spurred by consumer complaints and a series of articles by Consumer Reports outlining the discrepancy between advertised mpg and the real-world mpg of Ford’s hybrids.
The company is apologizing and sending out checks to compensate consumers for the difference between the fuel economy they were led to expect and what the cars actually deliver. The six models affected are the Ford C-Max Hybrid, C-Max Energi, Fusion Hybrid, and Fusion Energi, the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, and most versions of the Ford Fiesta. Compensation varies by model; see the chart below for details. For C-Max owners, this will be in addition to previous compensation of $550 for buyers, $325 for lessees.
The revisions to the hybrid fuel economy estimates come on top of previous downward revisions, so, for example, the Ford C-Max Hybrid dropped from an original estimate of 47 mpg to 43 mpg last year, and now drops to 40 mpg. The car returned just 37 mpg overall in Consumer Reports tests, including city and highway driving. They also reduced the electric-only range of the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi from 21 to 19 miles.
The biggest window stricker revisions come to the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which was not adjusted last year. The MKZ Hybrid dropped from an original estimate of 45 mpg to 38 mpg. Our test car got 34 mpg overall.
Ford cites a discrepancy in how wind-tunnel test results were translated into the resistance set on laboratory dynamometers on which cars are run through preset drive loops on EPA fuel economy tests. The settings offered less resistance than the cars experience on real-world roads, so they used less fuel in the tests. Ford says it has conducted more than 100 “coast down” tests on an actual outdoor track on all the vehicles in its North American lineup to validate the actual resistance needed. Those tests revealed the discrepancies on these models.
These changes come on top of revisions last year, after a Consumer Reports investigation revealed that Ford had not actually tested C-Max fuel economy, but instead had simply copied the results of the Fusion Hybrid tests to that car. Due to different aerodynamics, the tall little wagon could not hope to achieve the fuel economy of the sleek sedan in the real world.
All this points out how crucial fuel economy ratings are to automakers and the lengths they will go to to get higher ratings. But better ratings are only useful if they give consumers a fair basis for comparison of how much gas a car will use after they actually buy it.
We think the EPA test and ratings procedures, in place since the 1970s with only minor revisions, are long overdue for a major overhaul, especially in light of new powertrain technologies such as hybrids, which behave much differently than the cars the tests were originally designed to measure.