By on July 16, 2015

Ford C-Max sales chart TTAC

Following Ford’s announcement that production of the Focus and C-Max would leave Wayne, Michigan in the next few years, sales personnel at Ford dealers across America were heard asking their managers, “We still sell the C-Max?”

No, that’s not entirely true. Ford is moving Focus and C-Max production out of Wayne by 2018, but we weren’t privy to the conversations inside Ford showrooms. That question may or may not have been asked.

Through the first-half of this year, Ford’s U.S. dealers only sold an average of four C-Max Hybrids and C-Max Energis per dealer per month. 

The C-Max did get to off to a hot start back at the end of 2012. There was plenty of talk about the C-Max’s ability to outsell the Toyota Prius. No, not the Prius you know best, but rather the Prius V, which isn’t nearly as popular as the regular Prius.

During the final quarter of the year, Ford sold 12,340 copies of the C-Max in the United States; twice topping the 4K mark. (Ford hasn’t topped 3800 since, didn’t top 3,501 in 2014, and hasn’t managed 2,700 monthly sales in 2015’s first six months.)

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor CompanyBut by the end of its first year, the C-Max was already struggling to find more than 3,000 buyers per month. Other than the September 2013 improvement, when the year-over-year comparison took into account the C-Max’s launch month of September 2012, and two other occasions last summer, C-Max sales have always declined on a year-over-year basis.

Thus, while never truly popular, the C-Max has become increasingly unpopular in America. The reasons? It’s difficult to challenge a segment owner like the Prius. The second-generation Honda Insight can attest to that fact. Ford also flubbed the fuel efficiency marketing hype and later paid the price. Even before its efficiency downgrade, the C-Max wasn’t alleged to be quite as economical as its Toyota rivals.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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49 Comments on “Ford C-Max Sales Have Perpetually Declined In America...”


  • avatar
    ant

    It’s too bad I think.

    This is a genuinely interesting and practical car IMO.

    I hope the folks at Ford don’t give up on the concept, and go on to invest in a 2nd generation that has better packaging/more cargo space.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Agree… I think a gas engine version selling in the low 20s would be a nice RAV4/CRV competitor, especially if lifted a tad.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      You’re dead-on, ant. I love my C-Max. It would be hands-down a superior urban get-around vehicle to the CRVs and Escapes of the world if it had more cargo room. Low gas prices won’t last forever. The climate can’t afford it.

    • 0 avatar
      Garth

      I believe the reason the C-max has not succeeded as originally thought is because Ford has made no significant changes to the vehicle since the original 2013 was released. What are the differences between the 2013 and the 2015? There seems to be no reason to update.
      I agree this is a great car but it has programming issues that need to be resolved.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Ford totally Edsel’d the launch. It was hyped as a Prius-beater with amazing economy and practicality, but it turned out to be just a car with car-like performance and economy.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    It’s not selling because it’s ugly. Say what you want about the Prius but its Kammback shape is well executed and distinctive. This on the other hand looks like a dodgeball.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I think the larger version of the C-Max would have been more likely to be successful, and I think the Hybrid-only was also a turn-off.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      C-Max Hybrid sales are a bit better than those of the Mazda5, which would have been the direct competitor to the [Grand] C-Max. That micro-van was replaced with the Transit Connect Wagon, whose sales aren’t broken out from the TC. Links to Mr. Cain’s site:

      http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2012/10/ford-cmax-sales-figures.html
      http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/ford-transit-connect-sales-figures.html
      http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/mazda-5-sales-figures.html

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        I liked the idea of the Mazda5, but a week in one as a rental changed my mind. We did just get a Transit Connect Wagon however, which we like even though it’s a cargo van at heart. They don’t sell much of those either, so we could deal for it.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    The C-Max was never intended to be a hybrid/plug-in car. Ford got money from the gov’t “not bailout” to convert a factory into making green cars, and the C-Max wound up with a drivetrian it wasn’t built for.

    Then came the whole MPG fiasco where Ford was forced to make a public mea cupla after most people realized…hey, I’m not getting anywhere CLOSE to the advertised MPGs. I think it dropped from 47 combined to like 43…so from Prius rival to middle of the pack.

    Subjectively speaking, it’s also awkward looking at best, and just unattractive at worst. When you have a car like the Ford Fusion Hybrid, a gorgeous car sitting on the same lot with the same exact specifications and MSRP, the decision seems like an easy one to make, the few extra feet of cargo space be damned.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The Fusion Hybrid SE starts at about $2000 more than the C-Max SE. It’s even more expensive after you adjust for equipment. When you factor in incentives, it is an over $5000 difference for a C-Max that is better equipped.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        The dealership here is pushing hybrid Fusions at $6-$7000 off sticker, which is what you get when cars have been sitting on their lot for 8 months. Their C-Maxes are $5-5500 off. Nobody looks twice at either of them.

        http://tinyurl.com/pyyc73g

  • avatar
    carr1on

    My wife and I own a 2013 CMAX SE. We have received TWO mileage adjustment payments from Ford for the mileage debacle.

    Our lifetime average so far in the CMAX is 36.2 MPG.

    My wife really likes to drive the CMAX. It’s quiet and rides smooth. It also has every gadget possible which she likes.

    My favorite thing about the CMAX: the “crotch cooler A/C.” The CMAX has vents at the bottom of the dash that direct air towards your manly (or womanly) parts. Very nice on a hot day.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Actually, I’m surprised that I don’t see many of the plug-in versions. Once you account for the rebate, it isn’t much more than the regular CMax. With it’s range my wife could do her daily commute without using any gas. Of course I did notice once the rebate started, the price of the CMax Energy jumped accordingly, so I’m sure that didn’t help.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The plug in is less efficient if you have more than a 10-15 mile commute.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        And from what I’ve read, you have to be pretty light on the “go” pedal, or the ICE kicks on, even with a full battery. Also, a huge hump where the cargo area is in the standard C-Max

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Plug in hybrids have flopped generally. The Volt is the best seller of the bunch, and it hasn’t exactly flown off of the shelves.

      Generally speaking, I don’t think that dual-fuel vehicles of any type (as in those that give the user two refueling options, which would exclude regular hybrids) ever do all that well. For example, the Aussies were pushing LPG as an alternative and had dual-fuel cars in an effort to spur adoption, but most people would just go for the gasoline and not bother with the alternative. Having these kinds of choices may just confuse most people.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Slightly on-topic: The Fiesta-based B-Max is so named because it’s part of the B-segment (subcompact). The Focus-based C-Max is so named because it’s part of the C-segment (compact). The Fusion-based S-Max is part of the D-segment (mid-size), but can’t be called the D-Max because Isuzu already has a pickup with that same name.

  • avatar
    Rday

    Looked at the cmax hybrid. liked the way it drove but the driving position didn’t fit me. Plus CR really downgrades the model because of the reliability of its computer system. Reliability is one reason the cmax has failed. If CR gives it the kiss of death, the car is in trouble.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It’s reliable. The CR issue was with the infotainment system on the 2013 model. The issues weren’t a big deal and were addressed in 2012 and 2013.

      The powertrain will be extremely reliable.

      • 0 avatar
        rdclark

        CR’s overall reliability rating for ’13 and ’14 — and projected for ’15 — is literally off-the charts bad for the hybrid. (They had to add a little broken line to the bar on the graph because the extent of its unreliability wouldn’t fit in the space.) It’s only very, very bad for the plug-in.

        This rating is going to scare a lot of potential buyers in the CR demographic, which has a lot of overlap with the hybrid-buying demographic.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          TrueDelta shows the C-Max being in the green for reliability. Again, the powertrain is tried, true, and proven. The other issues have been fixed. CR still doesn’t like the C-Maxes computer. They give it 1s and 2s on audio and electrical. Remember that it gets 5s on everything that actually drives the car,.

    • 0 avatar

      Check out the CR relibility rating of Jeep Wrangler. They kiss, and kiss, and kiss, but the death isn’t coming.

  • avatar
    dwford

    3000 a month is still nothing to sneeze at – its a hybrid only design. Where does the C-Max sit compared to other pure hybrids? To the Fusion Hybrid?

    The C-Max did have a rough start, from the decision at the last minute to ditch the Grand C-Max in the US, to making it hybrid only – which, when you open the trunk, you can see was never the original plan based on the packaging of the battery, to the boring wagon shape, to the fuel economy ratings use, etc… and now gas is $2 cheaper than it was a couple years ago.

  • avatar
    z9

    In desperately eco-friendly territory where I live the C-Max has replaced the Jetta TDI wagon as the car you see everywhere, but never see anywhere else. We replaced our TDI with a C-Max. The main problem with the car is the lack of cargo space due to the placement of the batteries. If the design could have allowed the batteries to sit under the car to reclaim the cargo space I suspect it would be a lot more popular. People love toting their stuff around.

    As a car to drive, it is not that involving, but it is in its own way therapeutic. It is very, very quiet, rides comfortably, and has supportive upright seats. The handoff between gas and electric is amazing. If you need to be stuck in traffic a lot, it is the perfect car — no vibration since it shuts off the engine below 10MPH. The electric motor gets you started nicely and if you really need to get moving quickly, the engine turns on and gives a push. But there is some zone in which the engine turns on and doesn’t seem to move the car any faster at all, it just sort of growls. Which does not create respect for the drivetrain I suppose. But I think this is an illusion; it must be doing something, right?

    I strongly disagree with those who think the Prius looks better. The C-Max looks like a cute bus. The Prius looks like a mouse that has been stepped on.

    There is a refreshed version of the Grand C-Max in Europe that looks even better to me. I doubt Ford has any plans to bring this to the US, but do that and fix the battery position and it might sell again.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Year end discounts make this thing cheaper than an escape, but I still would be worried about consumer reports off-the-chart (bad) opinion of the vehicles reliability. I do like driving unicorns, so I may still purchase one if its around in a year or two.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The Toyota Prius is rated as the car most likely to be in service past 200,000 miles. Ford Escape Hybrids had the same reputation. I think the big reason is the Prius’s engine only runs half the the time. The C-Max is the same. There were some early glitches with the C-Max that I personally didn’t experience, with those thinks corrected, the C-Max should run a long time. (Last time I checked the incentives, it put the C-Max price-competitive with the Focus. If you are looking at a Focus, look at the C-Max. The interior is much more roomy. It’s quieter, and a little bit quicker. MyFordTouch works very well (except for the voice recognition which is spotty) and is very useful once you get used to it.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Listen to this man. People that buy the C-Max SE with package 203A are smart.

      This article is a good example of the longevity of this hybrid system:

      http://jalopnik.com/this-is-what-a-500-000-mile-nyc-taxi-valvetrain-looks-l-1717745908

  • avatar
    pbxtech

    Near my home the Ford dealer seems to only be interested in selling trucks. I have purchased 11 new cars for various member of my family in the 25 years I have lived here, and every one of those times I tried to shop Ford. I have never even been able to test drive a car because they have so few on the lot. My son bought the Mazda 6 instead of the Fusion, and he loves Fords. They had nothing to show him, they kept showing him a used Mustang. They did not have to sell him, they just had to not screw up.

    If there is a compelling reason to buy a CMAX people need to know what that is. I read all of the car blogs and I’m not sure of their message. The non enthusiast does not know that it even exists.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Here’s the message: the C-Max gets around 40 MPG and it isn’t boring to drive. Get the SE with the 203A package (Myfordtouch and more) and the winter package (heated seats) and you’ll have a car with plenty of toys to keep you busy, and you can have fun playing MPG games when you aren’t in a hurry. When you are in a hurry, the C-Max is an 8-second 0-60 car, which is a little better than average for all cars and is the cheapest hybrid that is this quick. Right now, with incentives, they cost less than cars that aren’t as roomy or as interesting.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    I think a big part of the problem is that the C Max is at the very bottom of every list of reliability. And electric cars are crap in any place where it gets cold in the winter.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      My MPG went down about 15% in the winter, but my conventional cars’ went down almost as much. You notice a 6 MPG drop in a 44 MPG car more than you notice a 2 mpg drop in a 16 MPG car, but the actual additional cost of gas is higher in the 16 MPG car.

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