At a press conference this afternoon, Ford announced it would reimburse current owners of model-year 2013 C-Max vehicles $550 for a 4-mpg difference in its EPA combined city/highway mileage. Lessees will receive $325. Further updates for the 2014 C-Max could raise mileage beyond 43 mpg, which applies to the 2013 C-Max only.
Ford says it voluntarily rerated the 2013 model because the current car matches the Fusion Hybrid's mileage under the EPA's "general label rules." Raj Nair, Ford's group vice president of global product development, told reporters those rules date "back to the 1970s, and they were created by the EPA as a general means to provide fuel economy labels without having to test every single vehicle in the industry." Most cars are rated using this rule, Nair said.
As we reported in November 2012, that policy allows the EPA and automakers to rate cars with common weight and drivetrain characteristics under the same mileage label — but it can be problematic, as in this case where "combining sedans like the Fusion Hybrid with crossover utility vehicles like the C-Max hybrid under a single, general label could result in anomalies," Nair said.Similar to Hyundai-Kia, which said in November it would compensate some 900,000 owners for the difference in gas mileage when it had to rerate much of its fleet, Ford will issue a "goodwill payment" to some 32,000 current C-Max owners and lessees for the mileage difference. The automaker is sending letters now with instructions on how to receive the money, Nair said. When pressed by reporters for details, he didn't have specifics on the repayment program but promised "it will be detailed out in the letter. We're going to make it, as we said, as easy as possible for our customers." C-Max customers with questions on the repayment program can call Ford's customer service at 800-392-3673.
Meanwhile, the 2014 C-Max will receive a number of mechanical updates, including more-efficient transmission gearing, various aerodynamic modifications and lower-friction engine oil to improve gas mileage. It has yet to receive an EPA rating. Nair said Ford expects "improvements, particularly with on-road fuel economy, but we don't have a [EPA mileage] number yet."
Ford has no plans to re-label the Fusion Hybrid, Lincoln MKZ Hybrid or any other vehicles. But it concedes the EPA and automakers have work ahead to better align mileage figures with real-world results. "We've both learned a lot, particularly relative to the 'general label'" rule, Nair said. "We're continuing to work with the EPA on that, and so I think that there's some more work to do."