News Column

Ford's New Hybrids Fall Short in Consumer Reports Tests

Dec. 7, 2012

Alisa Priddle

Ford Escape hybrid
Ford Escape hybrid

Ford's new hybrid vehicles fell below their stated fuel economy claims when tested by Consumer Reports magazine, the publication's auto testing chief said.

"Ford has been making some eye-opening claims about the fuel economy of the redesigned 2013 Fusion Hybrid sedan and new C-Max Hybrid wagon: '47 city/47 highway/47 combined m.p.g.' After running both vehicles through Consumer Reports' real-world tests, CR's engineers have gotten very good results. But they are far below Ford's ambitious triple-47 figures," the magazine's testers said Thursday.

Based on the magazine's tests, the Fusion Hybrid delivered 35/41 m.p.g. in city/highway driving and 39 overall. The C-Max hybrid got 35/38 m.p.g. in city/highway driving and 37 overall.

It is an issue that has been swirling for some time. Some news outlets have questioned the figures.

The irony is "they still have very good fuel economy," said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing. "The Fusion is the best hybrid we've ever seen."

The C-Max also has good numbers -- just not as good as Ford's claims, which are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Consumer Reports has notified the EPA and Ford of its findings, Fisher said. "Hopefully they will work it out."

"Early C-Max hybrid and Fusion Hybrid customers praise the vehicles and report a range of fuel economy figures, including some reports above 47 m.p.g.," said Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood. "This reinforces the fact that driving styles, driving conditions and other factors can cause mileage to vary."

Fisher agreed that driving styles differ and so do test cycles.

But Fisher is at a loss as to the size of the discrepancy.

The magazine tests about 80 vehicles a year in city driving and at 65 m.p.h.

"Of all current vehicles, this is the largest discrepancy between our test and the EPA numbers," Fisher said. "Over 80% of our vehicles are within 2 m.p.g. overall and we often get better results on the highway."

Fisher said this may not be similar to Hyundai and Kia, which are adjusting false statements they made about their mileage on new vehicles after an admission that their testing was wrong.

The Korean automakers are reimbursing consumers for the difference.

Ford may have designed its vehicles to score well on the EPA test and the results are not being duplicated in real life, Fisher said.

"There is nothing to say Ford is messing with the numbers," he said.

Separately, Ford of Europe concluded its investigation of 1.6-liter EcoBoost engines after reports of engine fires.

But the automaker voluntarily recalled new Fusions and Escapes powered by the same engine in the U.S. after 12 reports of fires.

Owners are advised to get a loaner from their dealer as Ford investigates the exact cause of the overheating and a subsequent fix remains elusive.

The issues attack Ford at its core: The automaker has invested heavily in EcoBoost engine technology as well as electrification of its lineup as part of its goal to have the most fuel-efficient vehicle in every segment.

The recalls and questionable mileage claims have tempered the accolades for three key vehicles: Fusion, C-Max and the Escape, which has had four previous recalls.

The 1.6-liter EcoBoost is fairly new in the U.S., but has been on sale for two years in Europe, where it is in six models and about 80,000 vehicles.

"We conducted a thorough investigation of the vehicles in Europe with the 1.6-liter engine and have determined there are no similar issues in Europe and no need for a recall," said spokesman Mark Truby.

For more coverage on the automotive industry, please see HispanicBusiness' Auto Channel

Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services

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