Billion-dollar Lawsuit Accuses Ford of Falsifying Pickup Fuel Economy
As if preordained to coincide with Ford’s announcement of its electric F-Series prototype, news of a class-action lawsuit accusing the automaker of falsified fuel economy tests surfaced last night. The suit, filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Seattle law firm Hagens Berman, asks $1.2 billion in damages for customers it claims are overspending on fuel.
The legal action piggybacks on the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of Ford’s testing procedures for the 2019 Ford Ranger in April. However, the civil suit also ropes in the F-Series — claiming that customers could spend upwards of two grand in gas they never budgeted for.
“We did the math and based this lawsuit on our own independent research. Ford’s fuel economy promises are all smoke and mirrors,” Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, told the Detroit Free Press. “Ford’s lies about the F-150 are masking the truth: Consumers are paying far more for these trucks than meets the eye. Over the lifetime of the vehicle, we believe F-150 owners are paying more than $2,000 more for fuel.”
While the race to achieve desirable fuel-economy targets have encouraged many automakers to cut conners from time to time, Ford has yet to be proven guilty of flubbing its truck data. That said, it’s been getting slapped with some ugliness in regard to how it does its business of late. Earlier this month, we discussed an extremely critical report (also from the Free Press) outlining the way it handled issues with the DSP6 gearboxes that went into the Focus and Fiesta. While we sympathize with the problems the company was confronted with, it was the worst kind of publicity for an automaker.
The Detroit outlet said Ford spokesman T.R. Reid reported the automaker had not yet been served the filing as of Monday, adding “what was announced today appears to be similar to two other filings by the same law firm in the same court. I’d ask you not to confuse claims with merit.”
However the Free Press suggests there is merit to the civil suit:
On Feb. 21, 2019, Ford said its employees, through an anonymous reporting process, had raised concerns about the way Ford calculated road loads, which are used to provide the Environmental Protection Agency with vehicle miles per gallon ranges.
At that time Ford said it had begun an internal investigation into whether its vehicles have worse gas mileage and emit more pollutants than car, truck and SUV labels state, going back to 2017 models.
“Our investigation continues into how Ford estimates road load as part of the U.S. fuel economy and emissions certification process,” Kim Pittel, the company’s vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering, said at the time.
The anonymous report was made in September 2018.
The Department of Justice is focusing its efforts on exactly this, hoping to determine if Ford manipulated data or testing procedures — specifically via the intentional reduction of rolling resistance. According to the suit, plaintiffs conducted their own tests using EPA-mandated coastdown procedures and found that Ford overstated the fuel economy in its F-150 trucks by 15 percent for highway mileage and 10 percent for city mileage. But, as this is a civil suit seeking 1.2 billion in damages, it would be surprising to hear anything else.
That’s not to presume its research is phony, but the testing procedures will have to hold up under enhanced scrutiny to be taken seriously. Any truly damning evidence will likely come from the DOJ probe, however. That investigation is still ongoing but Ford has already said it “cannot provide assurance
[Image: Ford Motor Co.]
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