Fuelin' Around: Ford Facing Legal Fracas Over Efficiency Claims

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
fuelin around ford facing legal fracas over efficiency claims

The new Ford Ranger only went on sale in January, but the midsize pickup is already the focus of a class-action lawsuit. The complaint, filed earlier this week, alleges the Blue Oval “deliberately miscalculated and misrepresented factors used in vehicle certification testing in order to report that its vehicles used less fuel and emitted less pollution than they actually did.”

Them’s fightin’ words, especially in the post-Dieselgate era. It also doesn’t help that Ford was forced to lower its fuel economy ratings on six models and dole out compensation to their drivers about five years ago. Is it deja vu all over again? Well, not quite.

Back then, the world had yet to learn of Volkswagen’s emissions shenanigans, meaning that the revision of an mpg label and any subsequent compensation wasn’t as big of a deal as it could have been. You’ll recall that other automakers have been dinged in the past for similar offenses. This time, with all hands hyper-vigilant for potentially nefarious activity, this stuff suddenly becomes front page news.

One more thing: the firm representing this suit against Ford? Yeah, it’s the same one that was the first in America to file against VW for its diesel emissions cheating scandal.

The certification tests suspected of being conducted improperly are the Coast Down testing and Road Load calculations. The former measures forces working against a vehicle by driving it up to speed, and then shifting to neutral, allowing it to coast down – hence the name of the test. It simulates the vehicle being slowed by forces such as wind resistance, tire rolling resistance, and other elements working against the vehicle. This complaint suggests Ford miscalculated the so-called “Road Load,” a measure of those forces.

This measure of forces acting against a vehicle during real-world driving is important in the simulation of actual driving when a vehicle is tested inside a lab. It is alleged Ford’s internal tests did not account for these forces, which lead to better-than-expected fuel economy projections. It could also produce claims that the vehicles emit less pollution than they do in reality.

Since the Glass House widely touted the new Ranger as the “most fuel efficient gas-powered midsize pickup in America,” the legal team is also pointedly saying Ford’s marketing is the subject of misconduct, as well.

In an interesting move, the document specifically cites a test performed by knowledgeable truck guy Andre Smirnov at TFL Truck, one in which he reported a significant difference between advertised and real-world mileage. Interestingly, the filing also cites a Car and Driver review of the 2019 F-150, in which the magazine reported an “anticlimactic 4 mpg below its EPA rating,” potentially dragging the best-selling pickup into this, too.

For its part, Ford opened an investigation into this issue back in February, hiring an outside firm to look into the matter. The feds soon opened their own probe into the potential issue. Reports at the time said officials at Ford were alerted to possible problems by “a handful of employees” through internal reporting channels.

[Image: Ford]

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  • SPPPP SPPPP on May 08, 2019

    Back in the day, Car & Driver used to actually measure the coast-down performance of the vehicles they tested. They called the statistic "road horsepower". Obviously, this would depend on the drivetrain of the car, but also the specific tires and styling additions for the trim level. Compare the measurements for the GMC Typhoon: http://sportmachines.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Car-Driver-3-92.pdf With the Toyota Camry: https://s3.amazonaws.com/amv-prod-cad-assets/files/1987-toyota-camry1987-toyota-camry-specs-jun-1987-1.pdf Or the Ford Probe (transcribed article, not scanned): https://www.scpoc.com/MaintMod/Probe%20Articles/CD-article.htm ... "European Car" apparently used to state road horsepower at 50 mph, and somehow they separated the friction & tire losses from aerodynamic drag. Did they do dyno testing, or did they calculate backwards based on the manufacturer's stated Cd number? http://www.merkurtech.com/merkurtech/magarticles/mxspec.php Car and Driver used to state this statistic until at least the mid-90s (probably when Csaba Csere uglified the magazine). I read through the complaint, and it seems to be relatively short on evidence, in fact relying on blog postings (TFLTruck?) as evidence. It seems more like an attempt to start the government fishing for malfeasance, than an actual case in itself.

  • Conundrum Conundrum on May 08, 2019

    So Ford is essentially accused of fudging aero and friction losses for different body styles but same drivetrain. This was reported elsewhere months ago. Hyundai pulled off the same maneuver five years ago, got caught and owners got rebate checks for the overconsumption of fuel. It's so easy to change a couple of constants/signs in a computer fuel consumption model that few can resist gilding the lily now and then. "Oops, honest error, your Honor. We subtracted the headwind factor instead of adding it, and advertised downwind results instead. Our deepest and most sincere apologies."

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    • HotPotato HotPotato on May 11, 2019

      @EBFlex IIRC I got not one but two MPG rebate checks from Ford in my five years of C-Max ownership. A modest compensation for the horrifying resale value, I suppose.

  • MaintenanceCosts This is unambiguously good for not only autoworkers but America. It was past time for a change.
  • MaintenanceCosts Great car, but, ouch, that price. It is probably about market correct which is a good reason not to be in this market.
  • EBFlex A corrupt union? No way!
  • Lonborghini Funghini https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=tim+minchin+F+sharp&qpvt=tim+minchin+F+sharp&FORM=VDRE
  • Kwik_Shift Yay, another CC short bed with 4x4.Give us a Dodge 50 or a Ram 700 (aka Fiat Strada) or body on frame Ram 1200.