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Ford to fix fuel-economy shortfalls on C-Max, Fusion hybrids

Facing complaints about disappointing mileage, a software update may bring three of Ford's new hybrids, including the Lincoln MKZ, more up to par with the company's EPA estimates.

By Clifford Atiyeh Jul 17, 2013 6:08AM
Ford will update software on 77,000 hybrid vehicles to quell complaints that the cars fall way short of government fuel-economy estimates, the automaker said on Tuesday.

Starting in August, dealers will offer owners of the 2013 Ford C-Max, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid a suite of "calibration updates" that Ford said would "provide our customers enhanced on-road fuel-economy satisfaction."

While the company's official city and highway estimates submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency will not change – a contentious point that triggered waves of complaints, including from Consumer Reports, and at least two pending class-action lawsuits accusing the automaker of false advertising – the new software modifies many of the vehicle settings in an attempt to boost mileage.

Among the changes are increasing the maximum electric-only top speed to 85 mph from 62 mph, forcing the active grille shutters to close more often, keeping the electric cooling fan at lower speeds, cutting the gas engine's warm-up time by half so it shuts off sooner and reducing the load of the air-conditioning compressor.

"Just as individual mileage can vary based on driving styles and environmental conditions, we expect fuel-economy improvements will differ from customer to customer depending on individual driving habits," Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, said in a statement. "Customers should see the most improvement at highway speeds, during air-conditioner use and operation in colder climates."

Consumer Reports, after purchasing two of Ford's hybrids, ignited the firestorm in December when it published that editors had achieved an average of only 35 mpg city/41 mpg highway for the Fusion and 35/38 for the C-Max. It says other owners have reported similar disappointing results. The official EPA numbers are 47/47 for both cars, and 45/45 for the Lincoln.

"Yes, the disclaimer on EPA fuel-economy labels notes that your results may differ. But the overall mpg for these C-Max and Fusion models is off by a whopping 10 and 8 mpg, respectively, or about 20 percent," the magazine said. "Our overall-mpg results are usually pretty close to the EPA's combined-mpg estimate."

The report came one month after the EPA found that Hyundai and Kia had overstated fuel-economy numbers on 75 new cars, to which the automakers responded by giving owners lifetime fuel credits that reportedly will cost them more than $400 million.

Despite an EPA investigation that had been ongoing since December, the agency made no indication that it intended to revise the fuel-economy estimates for Ford's three models.

Lawsuits seeking damages for alleged false advertising are pending in Pennsylvania and California. They have the potential to include tens of thousands of customers who purchased the cars. Ford has denied any wrongdoing and has said from the start that its mileage figures were done in accordance with EPA regulations and that it's typical for hybrid drivers to see wide variances in fuel economy.

The EPA relies on manufacturers to submit their fuel-economy estimates and verifies only about 15 percent of all new cars every year.

[Source: Ford]
Jul 17, 2013 10:59AM

I'd be willing to bet that Ford has NOT lied and that their vehicles actually do achieve their mileage claims DURING THE EPA PROSCRIBED TEST.


High fuel economy is a huge selling point these days and ALL manufacturers will do whatever possible to program their vehicles ECU's to maximize the numbers DURING THE TESTING so they can LEGALLY brag about it as a sales pitch.


Because this practice is rampant in the industry these days, prospective vehicle buyers should all but ignore the EPA estimates and do research into articles which have actually tested the vehicles in the real world.

Jul 18, 2013 3:08PM
The mileage shouldn't need to be fixed. Ford should have been honest about the MPG rating to begin with.  That being said, if something so simple as computer reprogramming can increase a vehicle's MPG's then why can't non-hybrid vehicles benefit from the same type of re-programming?  
Jul 17, 2013 12:19PM
What else is in the software fix? Slower acceleration and higher demand on the batteries so it will fail earlier? Beauty of drive by wire system. Stomp the gas all you want but the car will decide how fast, or slow, to accelerate.
Jul 21, 2013 5:43AM

A couple of things here.


Any Air Force vet will tell you that RESISTANCE through the air SQUARES as SPEED DOUBLES. 

This is physics and can not be changed. It applies to everything that moves 'air' out of it's way.


Since all cars are being shaped by wind tunnel tests, all cars are coming out of the tunnel looking alike. It's not possible to cheat Mother Nature.


Sure, any mf'g. can make a more fuel efficient vehicle but since a gallon of gasoline has about 180,000 btu's per gallon the question remains ... would the driver be happy with a vehicle that sips fuel  and suffers from a lack of 'pep' or be happier with more power? The heavier the vehicle the more fuel it's going to need to achieve speed and create inertia.  Do you want to drive around in a 'poop box' or in a tank? I'll take the tank. Pounds equal fuel usage.


Powered by a diesel? O.K. you'll go further on a gallon of fuel oil [diesel] but realize that there is more btu's in diesel then gasoline, hence, more heat energy, so you'll travel further on a gallon of diesel but pay more per gallon of fuel oil. 


Now there is 3,412 btu's per kW, which is how electric motors [not engines] are rated. The result is that electric cars use the same amount of energy [heat] as gasoline cars to travel the same amount of distance.


I'm not a fan of battery powered cars because of Entropy. More energy has to go into re-charging a battery then ever was taken out to drive an electric motor. There is NO SUCH THING AS RENEWABLE ENERGY. Natural gas? Only 1,000 btu per cubic foot burned. Propane? 2,600 btu per cubic foot burned.


Want to save gas? Keep your foot out of it. Coast up to red lights, use your cruse control [Ford has a cruse control that keeps the same distance between you and the car ahead of you, no matter the changes in speed from the car ahead.] Slow down. No jack rabbit starts racing up to the next red light. Drive like you have a raw egg between your foot and he gas pedal.


Are you really in that big a hurry to be killed in an accident? Every seven minutes somebody in the U.S.A. is killed in a crash. WHERE is the outrage in the deaths of 75,000 Americans every year? And we are [the Nation] all tied in knots because some black kid who wanted a confrontation with some Mexican kid was shot and killed by the Mexican.  No big deal in the big picture.

Jul 24, 2013 5:19AM
so, why can't they transfer the energy from a spinning axel, spinning tire and/or use strong magnets used in tandum to benefit the opposing energy and transfer that to power to the wheels to lessen gas needs or use that power for the a/c again lessening the gas demand for power to the wheels.  There are other ways as I just mentioned to generate power that do not have to come from a battery nor fossil fuel.
Jul 24, 2013 5:22AM
Another innovative (expensive though) method would be to build roads with strong earth magnets creating essentially a force field of sorts and build cars with their under carriage lined with opposing force magnets, this would create an anti gravity effect and basically make the car to operate on the road as if it weighed less, giving any car built to take advantage of this an increase in fuels mileage, from the reduced weight in affect when travelling on the magnetic roads.
Jul 17, 2013 10:45AM
Fix? Its called improve I have a customer getting 53 mpg, what BS is on here!
Jul 18, 2013 5:22PM
Ford and shortfall fit together quite well. Words like overpromising and under delivering come to mind as well.
Jul 17, 2013 10:47AM
and wait for GM and Chrsler to go broke again, but dont worry obama will fix it.
Jul 17, 2013 7:42AM
Funny, I thought Ford was a stand up company that does no least according to the Ford loyals. Looks like Ford is just as sneaky as anyone else. I'd be pissed too if they had duped me into thinking these had great mileage only to find out it was off by 10mpg! To think that Ford came out with the C Max claiming that it beat out the Prius in mpg, guess they shoud have been honest and said that it MIGHT beat the Corolla. Maybe. Lying does not win you repeat customers and the adjustments are not going to gain 10mpg, this isn't over.
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