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It was only a matter of time before the legal finger pointing would begin.
And with so many media outlets picking up on Consumer Reports claims that the Ford C-MAX and Fusion it evaluated weren’t meeting EPA fuel economy ratings, a safe guess would’ve said the lawsuits couldn’t be far behind.
Yesterday the Detroit Free Press reported that California law firm McCuneWright, representing plantiff Richard Pitkin of Roseville, Calif., has filed a class-action law suit in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California against Ford Motor Co., for a “false and misleading” marketing campaign about the fuel economy capabilities of the automaker’s 2013 C-Max and Fusion hybrid cars.
A portion of the lawsuit reads:
“In its advertising and marketing campaign for the vehicles, Ford claimed that the C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid achieved a class leading 47 Miles Per Gallon. “These materials helped Ford achieve record sales for the first two months of C-MAX Hybrid sales, outselling its rival, hybrid sales leader Toyota, but there was a problem. These ads were false.”
The suit seeks punitive damages, including reimbursement for the purchase price of Ford’s new hybrid vehicles.
Ford touts a combined Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-rated 47 mpg for both cars, but testing by Consumer Reports magazine has seen only a best of 41 mpg for the Fusion hybrid and 38 mpg for the C-Max hybrid. According to the Free Press plaintiff Pitkin purchased a C-Max hybrid in October and claims to have only averaged 37 mpg.
Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia were named in a lawsuit in November alleging false fuel economy labeling on a number of models. Prior to the suit the carmakers had notified the EPA about errors in testing procedures the companies used to determine fuel economy ratings. However, fuel economy discrepancies from the Korean automakers were less than the differences CR is reporting for the Fords.
Hyundai and Kia lowered fuel economy ratings by approximately 1 mpg on effected models, roughly a 3-percent difference, far less than 6 to 9 mpg variances the consumer watchdog group said it saw in the Fords. The magazine has said that more than 80 percent of the vehicles it has tested are within 2 mpg of the official EPA figures.
Earlier this month the EPA said it would investigate the fuel economy claims by Ford.
In response to the reports of mpg shortfalls, Ford has stated that a driver’s style – whether delicate or assertive with the throttle – can affect the fuel economy of the Fusion and C-Max hybrids. Ford says that the cars’ greater horsepower compared to competitive brands allows drivers to drive for fun, or drivers can operate the vehicles conservatively and achieve EPA mileage claims.