EPA to Review Consumer Reports Data Claiming Ford C-Max and Fusion MPG Claims are Bogus in Real World Driving

AutoInformed.com

Ford is betting the success of the new Fusion sedan will be based on better fuel economy than competitors.

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency will review Consumer Reports data claiming that Ford’s 47 mpg hybrid mileage claims were not realistic during real world – as opposed to computerized dynamometer – driving conditions. The Los Angeles Times first reported the pending government action as a statement from the EPA..

Consumer Reports said last week that it could not duplicate Ford Motor’s 47 city/47 highway/47 comb­­­ined mpg claim for the new Fusion and C-Max hybrids. In CR tests, the Fusion Hybrid provided 39 mpg overall, 35 city and 41 under highway conditions. During C-Max Hybrid driving, CR got 37 mpg overall, with 35 and 38 for city and highway.

These two vehicles have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we’ve seen among any current models,” CR in a press release that was widely picked up. (Read AutoInformed on Consumer Reports Testing Claims 47 MPG Ford Hybrid Claims are Bogus in Real World Driving. Another EPA Mileage Scam Exposed?)

However, EPA waffled yesterday as to whether it would run its own tests as it did after consumer complaints of false Hyundai and Kia mileage ratings that were off by as much as 6 mpg for their self-certified cars. All automakers self certify their vehicles with EPA only spot checking a tiny fraction, and usually then after it receive complaints, which the web has made much easier. AutoInformed has requested clarification.

Buyers who don’t understand the complexities of EPA ratings, and how automakers are optimizing calibrations for the test are bound to see that their mileage will vary. (Read AutoInformed on EPA Catches Hyundai and Kia in Mileage Rating Fraud)

When the C-max numbers were announced, AutoInformed raised the potential mileage disparity issue: “The all-new Ford C-Max Hybrid that goes on sale this fall is now EPA-certified at 47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway and 47 mpg combined. This makes it the first hybrid car without a window sticker that lists a decline in highway fuel-economy ratings. Whether this is real or the product of carefully calibrating the C-Max to the EPA test cycle awaits independent verification.” (Read Ford C-Max Hybrid EPA Rated at 47 MPG in all Categories)

Ford Motor responded to AutoInformed’s query on the independent CR tests with the following statement: “Early C-MAX Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid customers praise the vehicles and report a range of fuel economy figures, including some reports above 47 mpg. This reinforces the fact that driving styles, driving conditions, and other factors can cause mileage to vary.  For those customers who are more focused on optimizing their fuel economy, Ford’s new hybrid SmartGauge with EcoGuide eco-coaching technology features even more ways – such as Brake Coach and an “Empower” gauge for more efficient stopping and acceleration – to help our customers achieve higher mileage.”

Unclear from Ford were responses to two key follow up questions:

  1. Has Ford analyzed the CR test vehicles, which were bought at retail or made a request to?
  2. Has EPA requested Ford Fusion and C-Max hybrids for their own testing?

Ford confirmed that it tested the vehicles for self-certification as happens with most vehicles. Then responded, “We will continue to work with EPA and Consumer Reports if they have any questions. The key is our customers are very happy with their vehicles, with a good number reporting fuel economy above 47 mpg.”

Ford, like all other automakers, is badly behind Toyota, which dominates the global hybrid market. Ford is hoping that the fuel economy and a base price of the C-Max starting at $25,995, which undercuts Toyota Prius Liftback and Prius v by $500 to $1,300, will jump start sales. The roughly comparable in size Prius v is EPA rated in 2012 at 44 city, 40 highway, 42 mpg combined. The smaller Prius Liftback is EPA rated at 51city, 48 highway, 50 mpg combined.

Toyota counters that the C-Max is actually closer to the Liftback in useable space, so Ford is actually charging a premium.  In the event, is this enough of a Ford difference – real or advertised – to matter in the market? (Read AutoInformed on Honda Hybrid Sales Top 1 Million. 3 Million More to Catch Toyota)

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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