Ford to improve fuel economy of existing hybrids

Consumer Reports News: July 17, 2013 12:53 PM

Ford is launching a "customer satisfaction campaign" to address shortfalls in fuel economy that CR reported since we tested the company's current hybrids.

Ford will make software updates to new cars and send out letters to existing owners in late July, asking them to bring their cars in to dealerships for the updates in August. The company says the changes are designed "to improve overall on-road fuel economy," and bring it closer in line with EPA estimates on the cars' window stickers. The updates will increase the vehicles' maximum speed in electric mode to 85 mph from 60 mph, allow electric-only driving sooner after cold starts, reduce the speed of the electric fan, and change the programming of the vehicles' air conditioning compressor and active grille shutters. No specific claim has been issued to the improvement customers should expect. (Read: "The mpg gap: Some window stickers promise too much.")


To learn more about saving gas, visit our guide to fuel economy.

The changes affect the Ford Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid models, although they do not affect plug-in versions of those cars "which have different hardware and different operating characteristics," says Ford spokesman Bill Collins.

In our tests, both got excellent mileage, including a best-in-class 39 mpg for the Ford Fusion Hybrid. But they fell far short of their 47 mpg combined city and highway EPA ratings. Consumers rely on these ratings, published on vehicle window stickers, to help guide their purchase decisions. And the shortfall in mpg has generated many consumer complaints. It is conceivable that the changes could nudge the performance to, or past, the consumer-pleasing 40-mpg mark.

Collins says the window sticker labels will not be affected by the changes.

We applaud Ford's efforts to improve the cars' real-world fuel economy and hope to have the customer service action performed on our cars to see how much benefit it produces. But we still believe EPA fuel economy testing needs to be improved to give consumers more accurate estimates they can rely on before spending thousands of dollars on a new fuel-efficient car.

Eric Evarts

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