Earlier this month, Consumer Reports found Ford's new C-Max and Fusion hybrids fell about 20 percent short of the fuel economy figures the automaker promised in its marketing campaigns.
On December 7, Richard Pitkin of Roseville, California filed a lawsuit against Ford, accusing it of a false advertising campaign, which calls the C-Max Hybrid "America's most fuel efficient and affordable hybrid utility vehicle":
These ads were false. In reality, the C-MAX Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid actually achieved far fewer mpg: Plaintiff Richard Pitkin who purchased a C-MAX Hybrid in October has not achieved 47 mpg, but rather had averaged approximately 37 mpg. Pitkin’s mileage experience was not the exception, but rather the rule.
Pitkin is seeking reimbursement for the car, and wants Ford to cease its "false advertising" and "disgorge all profits and compensation improperly obtained by Defendant as a result of such acts" the Court finds unlawful.
In a statement, Ford said, " We are aware of the matter but cannot discuss pending litigation."
The lawsuit in California could be just the start of a problem for Ford. In November, the EPA ordered Hyundai and Kia to compensate drivers after exaggerating fuel economy on more than one million cars, costing the automakers millions of dollars.
As Richard Read at The Car Connection points out in a post today, that ruling was preceded by a lawsuit in July, by a California man claiming his Hyundai Elantra was not achieving the promised fuel mileage. It was also followed by two more class action lawsuits that could cost them hundreds of millions more.
The EPA is now reviewing complaints about the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid.
If Ford's story unfolds as Hyundai's and Kia's did, the automaker could suffer significant financial and reputational damage. It has had a very good 2012, and is betting much of its future on delivering highly-efficient vehicles.
Three Ford cars, including the Fusion, were included in our 17 Most Innovative Cars of the Year ranking, in large part because they promise fuel economy.
If Ford is required to publicly admit to, and apologize for, misleading customers — as Kia and Hyundai were — its reputation will suffer, and the good will it has earned in recent years after coming back from the brink of bankruptcy, without a government bailout, could disappear.
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