By on August 16, 2013

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After facing consumer complaints and lawsuits over consumers failing to get advertised fuel economy Ford announced on Thursday that it will be downgrading the combined MPG rating of the C-Max Hybrid from 47 to 43.

According to Automotive News, Ford says the discrepancy consumers have been seeing is because the C-Max Hybrid was never actually tested. Instead the Ford says that it relied on data from the Fusion Hybrid, with which it shares drivetrain components. Ford says that it will now test the C-Max Hybrid itself. Current C-Max Hybrid owners will be compensated with $550 and lessees will receive $325. Cars still on dealer lots will be relabeled with new Monroney stickers while owners and lessees will be notified by mail. It’s not clear if Ford will drop the price of the C-Max Hybrid by a similar amount. If you are a C-Max owner or lessees and have questions, you can contact Ford’s Customer Relationship Center via the web, or by phone at 800-392-3673.

 

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58 Comments on “Ford Downgrades C-Max Hybrid To 43 MPG – Will Give Current Owners $550 Compensation – C-Max Hybrid Was Not Actually Tested...”


  • avatar
    Halftruth

    That’s a bummer. At least they are owning up to it and doing something about it. It is surprising that it wasn’t tested in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      They are only “owning up to it” because they got caught by the EPA. That’s about as remorseful as pleading guilty after you’ve been convicted. They are “doing something about it” because they have no choice. Now that the EPA has run their own tests, Ford can’t stick their head in the sand any more. This is like “doing something” about my debt when I’m standing before a bankruptcy judge.

      When CR ran their tests, instead of “owning up to it” Ford accused them of driving too fast and too cold. (As if the CR testers are incapable of reading a speedometer and thermometer.)

      It’s surprising to YOU that it wasn’t tested in the first place. I’m 100% sure Ford knew exactly what they were doing when they didn’t run the EPA tests themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        This certainly seems very similar to the Hyundai scandle, and I don’t believe for a moment that they accidentally got their numbers.

        The sad thing is that a rating of 43 mpg is perfectly good for this car, and I believe they would have sold just as well.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Yep… lying when you don’t need to.
          Individual or corporation, that permanently flags toxicity.

          • 0 avatar
            rudiger

            Maybe Ford should have remembered how people like Richard Nixon and Martha Stewart ended up, i.e., it’s not the crime that gets you in trouble, but the cover-up.

            In fact, this sounds a little like the old Pinto fuel tank fiasco where Ford’s accountants calculated the potential in litigation pay-outs would be less than actually building the cars with a gas tank shield.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            They didn’t lie or cover up, they just saved some money by using the numbers from a car with a similar drivetrain. The EPA numbers are garbage anyway, and people who believe the stickers probably will draw a blank if you ask them what YMMV means.

          • 0 avatar
            rudiger

            Ford advertising the C-Max as getting 47 mpg was not lying? The little chicanery of “We were just following EPA rules” hardly lets them off the hook and sounds amazing similar to the old tried and true “We were just following orders”.

            Frankly, it’s quite amazing that there were EPA rules that allowed them to get away with using mpg figures for a vehicle with the same drivetrain, but completely different (and much more aerodynamic) bodystyle. With those kinds of rules, no wonder the EPA ratings are so fouled up.

          • 0 avatar
            jdoee100

            So Ford cheated afterall. It’s funny, because they ratted out Hyundai, and now they’re the ones being punished for the same crime. Other Ford cars should be checked as well, I get a feeling that other cars have “mistakes” as well. Any cars with ecoboost.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            It would be a phenomenally dumb business decision to bet a multi-million dollar product and advertising campaign on a number that they didn’t check, especially when a couple of reporters were able to check the number that CUSTOMERS would see for the cost of a tank of gas. The engineers who designed the car had to know what the car’s real performance was.

            I’m guessing the real reason Ford’s management tried to shove this one under the rug was one of the following:

            1) Management didn’t want to hear about this kind of thing.

            2) Nobody in charge over at Ford realizes that The Internet (and even the dead tree press) allows people to share notes about products, especially complex ones that get people excited like cars.

            This is all speculation on my part. But “we didn’t test the car that we spent tens of millions of dollars and several designing, building, testing, and refining” just doesn’t hold water.

            Yeah, the tests they were running weren’t certified EPA tests, but all it takes is someone saying “hey what MPG do you think customers will see from this thing?”. The response here must have been “aww, nobody on a planet of 7 billion ever looks at the receipt after they fill up the car!”, rather than “hey, that’s a good question; let’s look in to it to make sure we don’t make fools of ourselves in public later”.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          Ford did not cheat, per se, though the Koreans may have with “calculation errors” in deriving their numbers.

          Ford used a loophole that turns out to be embarrassing, but not illegal. It has been used forever- a family of vehicles is defined by certain attributes. Back in the early ’80′s, I was surprised to learn a steel hood was spec’d for the Hurst Olds, while the other Cutlass models used aluminum. This seemed curious to me until I learned they wanted to put the car in the same weight class as the 88 and Custom Cruiser! The wagon was “defined by regulations” as worst case, being the heaviest, least aero. In fact, it’s 2.41:1 axle let it get better mileage than the Hurst with 3.73:1 ratio and we wanted to avoid labeling all the cars with the lower number.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Ford certainly knew that the C-max and Fusion aren’t twins and that the C-max uses more fuel. They used a loophole to shaft their customers. That’s bad through any prism you wish to view it.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @CJ in SD- I can’t disagree with you. The C-Max is advertised for its fuel efficiency. I was guessing over-zealous, more than intending to shaft the customers, but wouldn’t likely see it the same if I bought one relying on that number!

            I will share my wonderment, “how did they accomplish that?”, when they released the big numbers.

            The Hurst Olds was “supposed” to be a hot rod, though It primarily just had a louder exhaust and ability to break the tires on launch.

      • 0 avatar
        jeoff

        They were not “caught by EPA.” They followed EPA rules. They were “caught” by consumers and CR, either gaming the system, or assuming that following the rules of the system was sufficient (it obviously was not).

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Exactly!

          [Sarcasm on]
          Because regular customers love the details of regulatory compliance, and are willing to cut the company slack based on a technicality!

          Oh, and we just buy a window sticker, not a whole car that will be a big part of our daily lives for many years to come!
          [Sarcasm off]

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Alan Roger Mulally; I am disappoint. You know better than this. Show us the R90/C90 mean and standard deviation, then we can decide what you’re capable of.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I’ve been saying there was something fishy with the C-max rating from day 1. Compared to the Prius v, of which Ford likes to trumpet the Cmax superior, the C max has more aero drag thanks to a larger frontal area and higher drag coefficient. It also has more rolling resistance drag thanks to 225 series tires and 400lbs higher curb weight. It also has a bigger, more powerful engine. Both run very similar atkinson cycle engines and similar setups for the torque split devices. The only advantage [and it was minor] was a slightly larger LiIon battery. Yet it managed to be nearly 10% better in the city and 15% better on the highway? The physics didn’t add up.

    Apparently the rating would have been 41mpg without the recently announced software change.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Really?? They never tested it but just thought because it shared the Fusion’s Powertrain “…CLOSE ENOUGH!!”

    I usually don’t take the side of the consumers when they complain about not getting the “advertised” fuel economy, because as per the actual TESTS, everything is legit, and mileage of course varies (wildly in the real world sometimes).

    But in this case… Wow. This goes beyond good faith IMO. And I’ve never had a reason to be a Ford detractor.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Agree. The Fusion is not even a similar shape, or type of vehicle. That would be like assuming the S-Type and the LS would get the same mileage because underneath they’re the same.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The S-type and LS were more similar than the C-Max and Fusion.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Exactly, and they were rated independently!

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I know, it’s insane. Someone needs to lose their job. I have no idea how someone could stamp that and say, “Eh, these cars that don’t even share a platform are close enough.” That’s like a bank putting your check in an account that shares similar numbers. Eh, close enough.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Funny story: A bank deposited one of my checks into my brother’s account at said bank, because our initials were the same. Our first and middle names are different.

            I about had a fit.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I am not happy at all when one of my branches does that. It is rare now with all the electronic posting of items, but it can happen. We tend to fix it right away, even if its at our loss. If I get an unfriendly phone call from a customer or corporate, you better believe the manager of that branch will hear from me.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Good, you tell em!

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            If a certain bank in America had upheld your standards after hiding my paycheck 16 years ago instead of taking a full “allowed” 30 days to correct their error I wouldn’t have ceased doing business with them as much as possible. I even refi’d for no better reason once. It all went ugly when a manager referred to me as “the public” instead of as a customer. Ford didn’t run the test because the result was known ahead of time but was allowed by regulation to misinform “the public”. They forgot the true underlying relationship and no doubt have created some life long non-customers.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            That “Bank in America” is a horrible corporation. My vote for their most disgusting move was with debit cards. They would wait until the end of the business day an then debit the amounts from the account, not in the sequential order they were placed, but by the largest first. The obvious idea was to maximize the likelihood of an overdraft and the resultant fee$$s. Those caught in that trap were almost universally those who could least afford it. Disgusting. They basically asked for regulators to step in. I’d keep my money in a mattress before I would use that institution.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It was never tested because they didn’t WANT to test it. The marketing guys wanted that 47/47 number so management skipped the test. This excuse is pure BS.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I believe that many car configurations (different trims and even different drivetrains) are not tested. With proper math, there isn’t a problem getting real data from one car and translating to another, but it is reasonable to expect to test at least one of each model.

      I also believe they didn’t *officially* test the C-Max because they didn’t want to get poor values. But let’s not forget the Fusion hybrid isn’t exactly living up to its rating, either. Thus, it seems that something fishy was pulled on that car, too.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        And yet the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid got a different set of mpg numbers. Same chassis and drivetrains, so why did they test that and not the C-Max??

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I doubt they actually “tested” it. The downgrade of the MKZ hybrid MPG compared to the Fusion hybrid is mostly based on wheels and tires. The MKZ hybrid has the same wheels and tires of the regular vehicle, and not 17″ wheels with LRR tires.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      You don’t know much about marketing – the marketing guy doesn’t have that kind of pull.

      It would be the product manager and created target specifications.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        And who exactly ignored the engineers?

        If the PM can keep these groups from talking to each other about the product and about engineering/business/marketing risks, they’re a bottleneck who has too much power.

        Of course, its easy for me to say that, and a hell of a lot harder to fix it…

  • avatar
    sirwired

    “This is an industrywide issue with hybrid vehicles. We’ve learned along with EPA that the regulations create some anomalies for hybrid vehicles under the general label rule.”

    Complete and utter bullshit. If they didn’t run the official tests (to create deniability) it’s because they were sure the results would come out poorly. They KNEW it would “create anomalies.”

    I think the EPA is learning, yes, that they need to revise the rule to remove this exception. The lesson Ford is learning is that consumers (and Consumer Reports) are not, in fact, complete morons.

    At the time, they accused CR of not being able to read a speedometer and driving when it was too cold. Maybe a groveling apology is in order?

    On another note, does Ford PR ACTUALLY expect anyone to believe this steaming pile of crap?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Especially when the established competition with a 15 year head start comes out with cars that basically match their ratings.

      Yes, I do have a Prius in my driveway. I’d love to be able to cross-shop it with something when it’s time to replace it, rather than slavishly writing a check to Toyota. Also, I drove the C-Max and likes it a lot. Fortunately, our the 9 year old Prius is holding up so well that Ford has time to get their act together before thebPrius is up for replacement.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    I rented one for 1200 miles and averaged 36mpg. Admittedly I drive fast on highways. On the way down it only got 32MPG at speeds slightly above 80. My 91 Integra gets 31MPG on same trip driven the same way. CMAX was really a great highway car though. Very very quite and very comfortable. Its a shame, I bet this kills sales. The 47MPG got people in the door and then they realize how nice it is. Now people won’t give it a chance.

  • avatar
    Equinox

    Thats unfortunate. I have been in and driven a CMAX multiple times and apart from being slow, it is a very nice car to be in.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I work in a heavily government-regulated business that involves, let’s call it “money” and “loans.”

    How on earth could you issue an EPA sticker without actually having an EPA test done? Our regulators don’t let us take a piss without filling out a methodology document first.

    Further, this is just more evidence that the test needs to be revised. Current “city” can stay the same. “Highway” needs to be called “suburban” because it still involves some stop and go. There should be a third number that is totally objective, steady-state 70mph driving. This would hurt hybrids a bit, but help diesel and gas cars in most cases.

    And that third metric is the one that most long-distance drivers would really want to see.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Is there anybody out there who really believes that a global company with the resources that Ford has never tested the fuel economy? Perhaps they did not do the official EPA test, but they most certainly knew the car would not achieve the ratings. This was a simple business decision, albeit a deceitful one. Ford could legally use the numbers from the Fusion and did so knowing that owners would never be able to meet them. By doing so they were able to advertise the car with legally-inflated numbers and hope to gain sales. Classic short-term Corporate America thinking. So now, they have to eat crow, pay a bit for it, and hope the people forget in short order. Which they will. One can only imagine what kind of numbers we would see if there was no standard, however flawed it may be, used to measure mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      I would assume that they new to the first decimal place what the car would get and thus never “tested” it. Since the “test” is an extremely specific set of conditions, anybody put in position to touch the car *and* run the test likely knows that you should never run the test until given the clear all around (they know the number they want and the exact way to set up the car to get it).

      “One can only imagine what kind of numbers we would see if there was no standard, however flawed it may be, used to measure mileage.” If a hypermiler can’t double even Consumer Reports reported mileage, they have no claim to being a hypermiler (yes, no true Scotsman but check the hypermiler numbers).

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Siddy Forudu. Tu-dai beat Toyota.
    Ha Ha

  • avatar

    How did they come up with this $550 number?

    Assuming ownership of 200k miles (not unreasonable these days), 47mpg=4251g and 43mpg=4651, a difference of around 400g. Average gas price for me is very close to $4/g over the last 2 years. 400*4=$1600.

    $550 seems low. Even if you only kept it 100k miles, that is still $800…

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      As a C-Max owner, I am torn about wanting compensation above the $550 they are offering. I don’t know what they are basing that number on, but, like Robstar says, its low for the change in fuel economy. I really like the car, ordered it before the fuel economy numbers were even released, and test drove it fully understanding it would never get 47 MPG. At the same time, Ford should have to pay more for their sheer stupidity and hubris (and for not selling the diesel here). If they really thought the C-Max was going to hit EPA estimates, they never drove the vehicle. I’d rather have someone fired (Raj Nair).

      Full disclosure: after I cash my $550 check from Ford, I will have recieved a total of $4550 from Ford Motor Company or my previous employer for purchasing a C-Max Hybrid. I probably shouldn’t complain.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    ”This is an industrywide issue with hybrid vehicles….”

    Heh.. apparently not. Nice faux innocence, though.

  • avatar
    RS

    This is kinda good news for people shopping the C-Max. New discounts of the price make it a better value.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    .. As if Fusion Hybrid’s real world fuel millage is anywhere near the EPA estimates. Ford still has a lot of explaining to do, not just with hybrids but also about the gas guzzling EcoBoost engines.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “Ford Downgrades C-Max Hybrid To 43 MPG – Will Give Current Owners $550 Compensation – C-Max Hybrid Was Not Actually Tested”

    All TTAC contributors except Murilee need to attend Headline Concision School. Why not:

    C-Max Energi Scam

    Ford Goes Gangnam

    Ford: “All Hybrids Lie”
    ?

  • avatar
    Brian P

    I’m pretty sure that “sticker rule” was meant to address not having to test the version with power seats versus the one without, or the one with the upgraded stereo versus the one without, or even the one with the Pontiac badge versus the one with the Chevrolet badge but otherwise exactly the same bodyshell and powertrain with identical calibration.

    I doubt if it was meant to address vehicles with completely different bodyshells and therefore different aerodynamics.

    Ford was allowed to use this loophole, so they did, and now they got called out on it. Good!

    Now how about the Escape 1.6 Ecoboost that my sister owns, which also uses a lot more fuel than the sticker said it should …

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Thank you, Consumer Reports. They got 37 w/ the C-Max, so Ford is still relying on “testing” that will confound consumers’ expectations. It’s a wonder how other manufacturers regularly exceed “EPA” results as reflected in CR testing.

    Next stop, the Ford Ecoboosts.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      On the ecoboosts, I think it really depends on which engine and which vehicle. I tend to meet EPA estimates with the following:

      1.6 Escape
      2.0 Fusion/Edge/Focus ST
      3.5 Explorer/Flex/MKT/Taurus/F-150 empty

      I haven’t met EPA in the following:

      1.6 Fusion
      2.0 Escape/Taurus/Explorer/MKZ
      3.5 F-150 while towing/fully loaded

      The 3.5EB does especially well for me in the D-platform CUVs. I average about 22-23 MPG in our MKT, which is better than what Derek averaged in the 2.0T MKZ.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Like bball40wt, I will happily cash my $550.00 check, and I am cheering on the class actions. I don’t feel sorry for Ford one bit when it takes them almost a year to admit that it never tested the C-Max at all. You can just look at the Fusion and guess it has a much lower coefficient of drag, and probably less swept area to boot. The main difference in fuel economy reports between the Fusion and the C-Max has been on the highway, with Fusion owners getting 2-3 MPG more. I’d love to see them do more wind tunnel work with the C-Max, and give it a more aerodynamic front end, because it doesn’t need all that grill. I think if they worked with it, they could deliver an actual 47 MPG car. FYI, my lifetime MPG is 44.1 now, but that includes very little freeway driving. The C-Max is an excellent 43 MPG car. It’s not a 47 MPG car.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I thought the 47/47 thing was odd when it came out, but thought they did something super special to get those numbers. Turns out they just did something super stupid.

    It’s good that they have to pay for the deception. Too bad that they couldn’t have just done the right thing in the beginning and not have CR call them out on it.

    This definitely will steer me away from looking at any of their cars. Of course the gaping maw on the C-Max, Fusion and now Fiesta doesn’t help anyway.

  • avatar
    360joules

    “I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Will anyone that still says that the EPA numbers are good for comparing cars finally learn from reading this story? I’d be surprised.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    In the C-Max Hybrid, Ford built possibly the best all-rounder ever. On the luxury end, it’s smooth and silent and packed with cabin tech. On the utility end, its tallboy profile packs vast people and cargo space into a tidy, easily-parked package. On the sport end, it handles precisely and hauls ass like a hot hatch. On the economy end, it approaches 40 MPG in real-world use, and the well-equipped SE is a fine value. On the safety end, it gets very good crash-test scores, and its torque vectoring control lets you hoon it without landing in the ditch.

    Ford could have marketed it as “the first no-compromises car.” Or “the first fun-to-drive hybrid.” Or “the first no-compromises hybrid.” Instead they entered an unwinnable MPG war with the car that sacrifices all other virtues for MPG. They could reverse course now. Instead they are doubling down, planning to change the gearing next year, which will probably mean the end of the 7.5 second 0-60 time current C-Max owners enjoy.

    Which — along with the negotiating room that accompanies a spot of bad PR — makes this a good time to go drive a 2013 C-Max. The car sells itself. Ford should get out of its way.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    If someone at a high level isn’t fired over this, Mulally is sending a clear message to the world that it’s business as usual at Ford.


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