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Ford Lowers Mileage Rating On Its C-Max Hybrid

A Ford C-MAX hybrid vehicle goes through assembly at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, last November.
Bill Pugliano
Getty Images
A Ford C-MAX hybrid vehicle goes through assembly at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, last November.

(Updated 8:40 p.m. ET)

Ford on Thursday backpedaled on the stated fuel economy for its C-Max hybrid after customer complaints and an EPA investigation found that the vehicle wasn't living up to its advertised 47 mpg.

The company issued a statement lowering the vehicle's stated performance for combined city and highway to 43 mpg after an Environmental Protection Agency investigation confirmed customers' complaints, according to Automotive News.

In its announcement, Ford also said it would offer what it called a "goodwill payment to current C-MAX Hybrid owners for the estimated average fuel cost of the difference between the two labels. Customers who purchased their vehicle will receive a check from Ford for $550. Customers who leased their vehicle will receive a check for $325."

The fuel economy claim for the C-Max had also come under fire from Consumer Reports, which in an independent test of the vehicle, concluded its combined mileage was only 37, says The Wall Street Journal, noting that the magazine "uses a different road test to obtain its data, and not the lab-controlled test that car makers used to attain EPA window sticker figures."

"Consumer Reports said most cars test within 2 mpg of their stated range, however, other hybrids, including the Prius and Prius C subcompact have scored 7 and 6 mpg lower before, respectively. The agency has acknowledged that real-world driving for hybrids often produces lower mileage figures than testing, and diesel engine vehicles actually do better than the tests show.

"In November of last year, the EPA made Kia and Hyundai restate the mileage on 900,000 vehicles sold from 2010 through the end of 2012. The companies offered to pay consumers for the difference in fuel consumption costs over the period."

Having to restate the mileage estimate for one of its premier green vehicles was an embarrassment to Ford, which has sought to make headway in sales against Toyota, the undisputed leader in hybrids.

Automotive News says:

"Ford used the 47-mpg number as the centerpiece of its C-Max advertising. Beginning in October, it aired a series of playful animated ads that pitted the C-Max against the rival Toyota Prius V. In addition to better fuel economy, Ford boasted the C-Max was more fun to drive than the Prius, as well.

"But Ford's mileage claims soon ran up against the real-world experiences of customers. At least two class-action lawsuits were filed against the company on behalf of consumers who alleged that Ford misled them with fuel economy claims.

"One of the suits, filed in California, was dropped in February. Another suit, filed in Massachusetts, is awaiting a hearing."

Karl Brauer, senior analyst at , says the decision by Ford to restate the fuel economy on the C-Max is "yet another sign that real-world fuel economy has to match manufacturers' claims."

Brauer says that while Ford is not the first automaker to run into trouble over inflated mileage claims, "with today's heightened level of accountability, maybe they'll be the last."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.