Ford lowers 2013 C-Max Hybrid's mpg estimates, offers $550 to owners

After an EPA loophole granted the hybrid inflated economy estimates, Ford is voluntarily reducing the 2013 C-Max's claimed mpg and offering cash to keep owners happy.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid
James Martin/CNET

After receiving numerous complaints that drivers of the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid weren't getting anywhere near the estimated 47 city, highway, or combined fuel economy estimates advertised, the EPA has announced that it is revising its estimated ratings for the hybrid vehicle and that Ford is voluntarily relabeling the vehicle with these new, lower values.

The EPA combined fuel economy value on the revised 2013 C-Max Hybrid label will be 43 mpg. City and highway economy estimates will also be revised down to 45 mpg and 40 mpg, respectively. Thanking goodness for small favors, Ford boasts that the new number is still higher than the combined 42 mpg for the Toyota Prius v . I'm sure that Toyota would counter with the fact that the 'v' is a slightly larger vehicle with significantly more cargo room and that 1 mpg isn't that big a deal.

How did we end up with the wrong numbers in the first place? As the EPA explains, its labeling regulations -- which date back to 1977 -- allow vehicles with the same engine, transmission, and weight class to use the same fuel economy label value data. Ford's 2013 Fusion Hybrid tested at 47 mpg across the board, so the automaker reused those values for the C-Max, which uses the same engine and transmission and is in the same weight class. According to the EPA, the resulting values for vehicles that are this similar are usually close enough that testing isn't always necessary.

In hindsight, the measurable differences between the Fusion and C-Max were large enough to evoke customer outcry, so Ford has announced that, in addition to the labeling change, it will be independently evaluating the C-Max Hybrid's fuel economy going forward. Ford is also offering current C-Max Hybrid owners a rebate check for the estimated average fuel cost difference between the old and new values. Owners will receive $550 from Ford, while lessees will receive a check for $325.

Ford took this opportunity to also announce a few improvements that it will be making to the upcoming 2014 model year C-Max Hybrid to improve its fuel economy. The new model will feature revised transmission gear ratios that Ford claims will be more efficient; power train friction will be reduced with new engine oil; and aerodynamic tweaks will help the C-Max cut through the air and improve highway fuel economy. The improved fuel economy estimates for the 2014 C-Max Hybrid have not yet been announced.

 

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