A California law firm has filed a putative class-action lawsuit against Ford Motor Company over the automaker’s mileage claims for two of its new hybrid models.

Ford C-MAX hybrid lawsuit
Ford facing class-action lawsuit over allegedly fraudulent C-MAX hybrid fuel economy claims.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of California, charged Ford with making ‘false and misleading’ statements when advertising the fuel efficiency of its 2013 model year C-MAX Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid vehicles. The lawsuit noted that Ford had sold a record number of C-MAX and Fusion hybrids in the first two months of this year only because it had grossly overstated the fuel efficiency of the vehicles. Now, it seems Ford may be shipping cars back to the factory, just as quickly as they were shipped out.

While Ford has claimed the two cars deliver a class-leading 47 miles per gallon, in reality the C-MAX Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid average just 37 mpg, law firm McCuneWright said in complaint. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Richard Pitkin, a California resident who purchased a C-MAX Hybrid last October. It seeks punitive damages, including full reimbursement of the purchase price, for those who had purchased the vehicles based on Ford’s mileage claims.

Media Brings Situation Into the Spotlight

The lawsuit follows the growing criticism of Ford’s advertising claims from recent quarters. Influential sources, such as Car and Driver, the Wall Street Journal, and Consumer Reports magazine, have all criticized Ford for inflating the mileage statistics of the two hybrid vehicles. In a recent review, Consumer Reports noted that the C-MAX Hybrid got just 35 miles per gallon for city driving and 38 mpg for highway driving. Overall, the C-MAX and Fusion had the largest discrepancies in overall mpg between the numbers claimed by Ford and the numbers achieved during actual driving tests, according to the magazine.

In similar testing, Car and Driver reported the C-MAX achieved just 34 miles per gallon during a 67-mile trip. This particular test was conducted with the cruise control active, and maintaining a constant 75 mph. The C-MAX had a combined city and highway fuel economy of just just 32 mpg – far less than Ford’s advertised fuel efficiency, and the Toyota Prius V models. The Wall Street Journal called on Ford to “recalibrate” its claims, after testing the two cars and realizing the actual numbers were nothing close to 47 miles per gallon.

Record Sales Numbers, Now With an Asterisk

The lawsuit comes at a time when Ford has made fuel economy the central theme of its marketing and advertising campaign. In recent advertisements, the company has touted its vehicles as delivering much better fuel economy than comparable cars, including rivals like Toyota. The aggressive marketing campaign has significantly propelled Ford’s sale of hybrid models. In the first two months of this year, sales of the American automaker’s C-MAX and Fusion hybrids have far surpassed the sales of Toyota’s Prius hybrid.

Ford is not the only automaker being criticized for misleading mileage claims. In recent months, other automakers have also come under considerable scrutiny for overstating the fuel economy on their hybrid vehicles. Last year, for example, Kia and Hyundai were forced to publicly retract their mileage claims after the Environmental Protection Agency discovered the two Korean carmakers had inflated the fuel economy on two of their hybrid cars by over six miles per gallon. Both carmakers have agreed to refund money to anyone who had purchased the cars based on the inaccurate mileage claims.

About the Author

Gary Morgan manages the public relations and marketing departments at CarShipping.com, where consumers can compare auto shipping quotes, instantly! To learn more about vehicle shipping and regulations, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.