Ford Is Being Sued Over Fuel Efficiency Claims

2013 ford fusion in times squareThe 2013 Fusion at its Times Square launch in September.

Photo: Ford Motor Company

Two similar lawsuits against Ford over an allegedly “false and misleading” marketing campaign, which promised excellent fuel economy in the automaker’s C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid cars, have been consolidated in California.The new lawsuit, with five to 10 class-action representatives, will be filed by firms McCuneWright, and Robbins, Geller, Rudman and Dowd, the Detroit News reported.

“There’s a lot of really unhappy people,” Rich McCune of McCuneWright told the Detroit News, “We’ve received hundreds of calls from the few newspaper stories that have been around.”

Both Ford hybrids have been accused of not delivering the 47 miles per gallon they promise. In December, Consumer Reports found the C-Max and Fusion hybrids it tested fell about 20 per cent short of the mark.

The original lawsuit was filed in December, on behalf of Richard Pitkin of Roseville, California. Pitkin had bought a C-Max Hybrid, which Ford advertises as “America’s most fuel efficient and affordable hybrid utility vehicle.”

The suit alleged:

These ads were false. In reality, the C-MAX Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid actually achieved far fewer mpg: Plaintiff Richard Pitkin who purchased a C-MAX Hybrid in October has not achieved 47 mpg, but rather had averaged approximately 37 mpg. Pitkin’s mileage experience was not the exception, but rather the rule.

Ford would not comment on the pending lawsuit, but defended the 47 mpg figure in a 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, reinforcing the fact that driving styles, driving conditions and other factors can cause mileage to vary. Ford’s eco-coaching hybrid technology has even more ways – such as Brake Coach, an “Empower” gauge and other features for more efficient stopping and acceleration – to help customers achieve higher mileage.

In December, the Car Connection reported the EPA would review the fuel economy claims in question. That puts Ford in bad company: In November, the EPA ordered Hyundai and Kia to compensate drivers after exaggerating fuel economy on more than one million cars, costing the automakers millions of dollars.

On top of potential financial losses, the outcome of the EPA review and lawsuit could inflict reputational damage on Ford.

If the automaker is required to publicly admit to, and apologise for, misleading customers — as Kia and Hyundai were — it could squander the good will it has earned in recent years after coming back from the brink of bankruptcy, without a government bailout.

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