UPDATED: See below*
U.S. headlines were still focused on Hyundai and Kia's fuel-economy flubs when folks on the internet turned their attention to the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid. Both vehicles have been criticized in the press for not meeting their advertised fuel efficiency, and now Ford has responded to those attacks in a way that may not please Fusion and C-Max owners.
Ford claims that both the Fusion Hybrid and the C-Max Hybrid earn a combined fuel economy of 47 mpg. However, the best efforts of our colleagues at Green Car Reports yielded only 40 mpg on the C-Max. Owners of the Fusion saw slightly lower results, in the 35 - 37 mpg range. After considerable testing, Consumer Reports rated both below 40 mpg.
But despite those high-profile problems, Ford's President of the Americas, Joe Hinrichs, says that the automaker is unlikely to change fuel economy ratings for either vehicle. According to Detroit News, Hinrichs reiterates that Ford followed the guidelines for the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel-economy tests to arrive at the C-Max's 47 mpg figure. (We presume the company did the same for the Fusion Hybrid.)
Hinrichs admits that Ford is in talks with the EPA to determine if re-testing of the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid will be necessary. If those re-tests go ahead, there's a chance that Ford could be forced to adjust fuel economy figures -- and perhaps, like Hyundai and Kia, reimburse consumers for the difference.*
However, Hinrichs stands behind Ford's claims, saying that fuel efficiency for hybrids like the Fusion and the C-Max are dependent on a range of factors, including driving style.
Hinrichs' statements clearly suggest that if motorists drive the C-Max Hybrid and the Fusion Hybrid conservatively, they'll earn the advertised fuel economy. But if the staff at Green Car Reports, our colleagues at Consumer Reports , and even C-Max and Fusion owners can't approach the 47 mpg mark, who can?
Is Ford off-base, or is the company simply trying to save face? Is it possible that the auto critics who've reviewed the vehicles did something wrong? Or is it time to revisit our standards of fuel-economy measurement altogether?
We don't have any answers yet -- only more questions. Our friends at Green Car Reports have a few more.
* UPDATE: We've received an email from Ford clarifying two elements of this story.
1. Although "Ford is in talks with the EPA", the automaker isn't discussing the validity of fuel economy claims for the C-Max Hybrid or Fusion Hybrid. Rather, Ford is talking to the EPA about updating fuel economy tests for all hybrids to make them more accurate: "[W]e agree with EPA that hybrids are far more variable in testing than conventional vehicles compared to real world driving so we’re addressing the industry issue."
2. On a third-party forum for the C-Max, some consumers are not only achieving, but beating the hybrid's 47 mpg rating.