Ford Admits Hybrids Fail at MPG Claims: Fix Issued

Ford Admits Hybrids Fail at MPG Claims: Fix Issued

Ford acknowledged today that its hybrid fuel economy claims are unrealistic for real-world driving. 

The company announced a plan “aimed at improving on road fuel economy customer satisfaction,” Ford global product development group vice president Raj Nair said today in a press conference. It asks current hybrid owners to bring their vehicles back to dealers for “enhancements” designed to improve real-world hybrid fuel economy.

Those changes include the ability to drive on electric power at up to 85 mph rather than the former 62. That, and a series of other enhancements will improve “customer satisfaction” surrounding the actual fuel economy their hybrid vehicles offer, Ford said.


Other changes include an optimized active grille shutter system to reduce drag. Nair also said Ford is speeding engine warm up times by over 50 percent to allow the engine start-stop system to operate sooner after a driver starts the car. The same tweaks will be made on vehicles being manufactured.

Ford also promised that the changes will be carried out free of charge and that they will not affect vehicle performance — something the brand says has played a key role in differentiating its hybrids from Toyota products. The C-Max offers more output than the Prius.

MPG Scandal Late Last Year

During the presentation, Nair spoke about addressing varying fuel consumption associated with hybrid vehicles in December, 2012. That month, Consumer Reports had also released its real-world fuel economy tests showing both the C-Max and Fusion hybrids returning significantly poorer than advertised fuel economy. It was a big discrepancy (the largest the consumer publication had ever recorded), and one that came shortly after Hyundai had been caught fudging its advertised fuel efficiency ratings.

Rather than the 47 MPG combined claimed by Ford, Consumer Reports returned 39 MPG in the Fusion Hybrid and just 37 MPG in the C-Max hybrid.

It wasn’t long before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would begin testing to evaluate both vehicles.


“C-Max and Fusion are not going through the same process as Hyundai since the later was a case of incorrect information being submitted by the company. The Ford vehicles are undergoing overall fuel economy testing to allow for a comparison of results,” the agency said in an email.

The EPA investigation of Hyundai and Kia that ultimately lead to an embarrassing “mea culpa” by the South Korean brands began in February, 2012, after scores of complaints were filed by owners. A conclusion was finally announced 10 months later in November.

While the agency confirmed that the two tests are different, it’s hard to imagine that the results are far from being released; especially given Ford’s announcement. As of Friday, July 12, the agency maintained that its investigation was ongoing.

Ford sees Future in Hybrids

Even if the EPA ends up admonishing Ford in its report, the Detroit maker will still be pouring more resources into  its electrified vehicle program.

“We’ll be increasing the employees working in electrification engineering by more than 50 percent” this year, Nair said. “We’re also investing an additional $50 million in electrified product development and testing centers.”

Increasing hybrid sales are at the heart of the decision. Ford said it is adjusting production of its Fusion-based mid-size Lincoln MKZ to allow for the hybrid variant to account for 40 percent.

“Electrified sales have been more than 46,000 units through June,” Nair said of the brand’s total portfolio. “That’s more than 400 percent higher than the same period a year ago. In fact, we’ve quadrupled electric vehicle market share, now at nearly 16 percent (15.7 percent).” Things look good.

Some Questions Still Unanswered

It isn’t clear if they will stay that way. Last week, the brand announced that it would cut the price of its struggling all-electric Focus by $4,000; a move most other manufacturers with electric cars are also making.

The EPA still has to release its findings. While it’s unlikely that the EPA findings will align with Consumer Reports completely, a significant drop could prove problematic. That will be especially true if Ford needs to adjust its advertised 47 mpg figure.

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Fusion Hybrid image courtesy of

  • danwat1234

    About time! I wonder how much of an improvement it’ll make and what other changes besides more aggressive grille shutters and electric motor behavior.
    Right now the C-max is at about 40MPG real world average and the Fusion hybrid is at 41MPG, according to fueleconomy and fuelly

  • Milosh

    I have to agree. Why did this take so long. It sounds like an ECU flash to me… What was Ford doing this whole time?

  • Peter

    I really hope the EPA’s results say the same thing that conumer reports and everyone else has been for the past year. This is total nonsense. How is it that NHTSA holds OEMs to each other’s standards while the EPA turns what looks like a blind eye to manufacturers gaming the system and claiming absurd fuel numbers? What a pack of lies…

  • Jenna

    Let me just say that i LOVE my cmax. I can carry my kids around in it, get my errands done and I save gas. I don’t get near the mileage I expected, but I still save about $200 a month compared to my old Explorer…

  • louis

    So wait… is this a recall or just a “present” from ford because they’re so nice…? I don’t get it…

  • Alfie

    Sounds like Ford may be avoiding a bigger issue by doing this. Recalls are technically only safety related so this wouldn’t be a recall. It could help them avoid a big govt fine though. Sure it’s a “present” but the gift is only what Fusion Hybrid and C-Max buyers already paid for.

  • Mark

    I think this whole thing is a bunch of crap. If you can “update” hybrids to get better mpgs then why the hell aren’t they just updated in the first place?

  • Martin

    I would be pissed if I bought one. Ugh…

  • Richard Joash Tan

    “What a pack of lies…”


  • cheddar

    Good for Ford. I’ve been a loyal customer for years. Yay free upgrades! Its like owning a tesla… only without dealing with that d-bag guy running the company.

  • JtanFan

    And you are a bullshit for being biased toward Subaru and having very poor grammar.

  • Jose

    i’m going to take my mustang in and argue that it needs a free ecu tune because of this…

  • Honest Abe

    LOL! If you want a slower Mustang.

  • Eddy Ed

    You mean Elon. Lol. He does seem like a douche.

  • Alfie

    Maybe the tech wasn’t available yet… or maybe it’s expensive stuff and they just didn’t want to give it away.

  • J Mac

    Me too. Funny how everyone thought Ford just pulled Toyota-beating hybrid tech out of their ass like it was no big deal. Turns out… Ford was just bluffing.

  • Wil Janssen

    I am not really sure why people that buy a Hybrid, are not learning a bit more about the technology. If you learn and behave, you will see that a great mpg is very realistic. So after almost 1000 miles with my brand new c-max, i have an average of 50.8 mpg !!!
    And yes this is a mix of city and highway. This is my result before going into this upgrade offered by Ford now. So people, try to learn and read a bit about driving a Hybrid and the mpg is reachable. Think about buying a new smart phone. You can only take full advantage if you learn about the functions and features and also apply them.

  • Hawt Shiz

    I still can’t believe Ford got off so easily on this. Even Hyundai gave people gas cards.

  • Rizza

    That’s ridiculous. You need to remember that we’re talking about a company that ADVERTISES those fuel consumption numbers.

    I promise you that even if Ford didn’t “have” the technology when the fusion and cmax hybrids were released, they could have “developed” it in a matter of weeks. Didn’t want to give it away? Didn’t want to spend the money? Boo hoo! They lied. Period.

    In my mind, Ford should be admonished by the Supreme Court for this sort of behavior. Maybe bailout money would have helped keep them honest…

  • Mark

    What did you expect?

  • Morgan

    Saying Ford is doing a good job is like saying you shouldn’t hate the Kim Jong Un because he thinks what he’s doing is right.

  • Chilly WIlly

    You might be right, but the general public is probably unwilling to greatly alter their driving habits. Which is why diesel is such a better choice in the first place.

  • Sirgeek

    Nice that you like your car, but bull that Ford has LIED about its cars’ mileage. At least SOME people (probably most) bought the car because of the incredible fuel economy claims. That’s fraud and sold be treated as such.

  • Sirgeek

    I hope you aren’t expecting an ECU flash to suddenly give you 47mpg. It just doesn’t work like that… And if it does, I’d be really concerned about your cars’ long term durability. Good luck!

  • danwat1234

    I expect about 5% improvement.

  • Religious Record Keeper

    Had my 13 Fusion Hybrid ECU upgrade 2 weeks ago. Measured MPG for two fill ups since then. Approximately same average 39.8 mpg. However, the Fuel Computer Display became much more optimistic – like showing 50+ mpg whereas before the “upgrade” it was much closer to the real mileage showing 40 to 41 mpg. Appears Ford simply reprogrammed the display to assuage PO’d customer expectations.