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Ford To Lower 2013 C-Max Hybrid Fuel Economy Ratings, Compensate Drivers

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For one of the first times in recent history, lowering the mileage numbers on a new vehicle might have a positive affect on how shoppers and owners feel about a vehicle.

In this case, the vehicle we're talking about is the 2013 (and 2014) Ford C-Max Hybrid.

Ford Motor Company plans to soon voluntarily reduce its EPA fuel economy ratings for the Ford C-Max Hybrid, in light of a continued controversy over whether the real-world mileage of the model comes close to the federal estimates.

In addition, the automaker will be making a goodwill payment to all owners and lessees of the 2013 C-Max: If you own it, you get $550; those who lease get $325.

The news is an exclusive, broken by Automotive News, and cites a source within Ford, anticipating an official announcement on the matter tomorrow.

EPA estimates stand at 47 mpg city, 47 highway for the C-Max, a tall wagon model that competes with both the Toyota Prius Liftback (51 mpg city, 48 highway) and Toyota Prius V (44/40 mpg); according to early reports, that figure will drop to 43 mpg on both counts.

Our editors have driven the C-Max several times and found, as the editors of other publications have, real-world mileage to be in the mid- to upper 30s in most cases—which to us was satisfactory, considering the much sportier, enjoyable driving experience it provides against the Prius. But if you're a numbers person, or a frugal type who tends to dwell on why in especially gentle driving you haven't been able to achieve the EPA rating, we can see why this might be frustrating.

Last year, Consumer Reports also found that the C-Max fell short—fully 20 percent lower—of the EPA ratings in its tests

Several class action suits have been filed on the issue, and at least one is awaiting a hearing, according to AN. And the EPA is investigating the matter.

For some buyers we've seen accounts of, what's angered them wasn't that they were getting lower mileage than a Toyota Prius (or Prius V), but that their mileage didn't come close to matching EPA estimates. Early advertising for the C-Max had revolved around its mileage numbers.

Just a few weeks ago, Ford said that it was working to modify existing models of the 2013 C-Max to provide mileage numbers closer to those listed by the EPA. That solution will largely involve a recalibration of the vehicle-control software, and changes a wide range of parameters from a higher electric-only speed to quicker warmup and enhanced operation of the Active Grille Shutters.

The 2014 Ford C-Max will feature not only software improvements, but hardware improvements to match—so we might be seeing a slight rebound in those numbers.

There's no word yet on how the C-Max with all these changes will far in real-world driving, but we're eager to find out.

In the meantime, what do you think about Ford's approach to this issue?

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