New MPG ratings announced.
If you do not think that the auto industry is responsive to customer feedback, think again. Last week, the Ford Motor Company announced that it had lowered the fuel economy ratings for select 2013 and 2014 model year vehicles. The move followed complaints from customers and a subsequent investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Six Models Affected
The six affected models include hybrid, plug-in hybrid and one gasoline-powered model, the Ford Fiesta. In only one example was there no change in combined city and highway driving, yet for one vehicle the discrepancy came in at 8 mpg on the highway (Lincoln MKZ Hybrid).
The automaker said that through internal testing that it had identified an error that resulted in wrong data being submitted to the EPA. The EPA was notified and the automaker cooperated with the federal agency to issue new ratings.
“Ford is absolutely committed to delivering top fuel economy and accurate information,” said Alan Mulally, Ford president and CEO. “We apologize to our customers and will provide goodwill payments to affected owners. We also are taking steps to improve our processes and prevent issues like this from happening again.”
Goodwill Payments Forthcoming
Those goodwill payments will cover six models, but not for every vehicle. For example, the fuel economy ratings for the 2014 Ford Fiesta equipped with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and paired with a manual transmission were unchanged. Thus, no payment will be made to those customers.
Ford will be sending checks ranging from $125 to as much as $1,050, depending on the model. The smaller amount is for people that leased a Ford Fiesta with a three-cylinder engine and the manual transmission. The larger payment goes to owners of the 2013 and 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. That hybrid suffered the most significant hit as its combined fuel economy dropped by 45 mpg to 38 mpg following new testing.
Other affected models include the Ford C-Max Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Ford C-Max Energi Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Energi. Ford’s Energi line denotes plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) instead of standard hybrid.
Internal MPG Testing Conducted
The Ford Motor Company reviewed its entire line up of Ford brand and Lincoln brand vehicles besides the affected models. In a related press release, Ford noted that its testing involves a number of factors. The error was found with “the Total Road Load Horsepower or TRLHP. That represents the “vehicle specific resistance level used in vehicle dynamometer testing that determines fuel economy ratings.”
The company said that “TRLHP is established through engineering models that are validated through vehicle testing, including physical track tests referred to as coastdown testing.”
Ford insisted that using such engineering models is common in the industry and are also consistent with EPA regulations. The error was attributed to a process change which the company has since corrected.
The goodwill payments will cover the cost difference customers pay when filling up at the pump. The lease payments will come in for less as customers will keep those vehicles for a shorter period of time. For purchase customers the payment is based on approximately five years of ownership.
Auto Industry Reacts
Ford is not the only automaker forced to recalculate its fuel economy ratings. Hyundai and Kia had to make adjustments to fleet figures in 2013 when several models failed to meet its own fuel projections. Like Ford, the two Korean manufacturers also reimbursed vehicle owners.
Although Ford responded to customer complaints and an EPA investigation, a broader look at the industry reveals that all automakers have been on their toes these past few years.
Starting with Toyota’s massive recalls a few years back and extending through GM’s even larger recalls this year, automakers are quick to identify problems and offer resolutions. They have to too as covering up problems can lead to lawsuits, government fines and a customer base that may move on if they lose trust.