After a series of testing and retesting with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that showed its cars did not register real-world fuel mileage anywhere close to Ford's labels, the automaker wants to make up for its mistake by making "good will" payments anywhere from $200 to over $1,000 for its customers.
Ford has lowered gas mileage and fuel efficiency for six of its models, including the 2014 Ford Fiesta, plug-in hybrids Fusion and C-Max Energi and hybrids Fusion, C-Max and MKZ. The figures have dropped from one to five miles per gallon (mpg) for all models, except for the Lincoln MKZ hybrid, which Ford once advertised as the "most fuel efficient luxury hybrid in America." The MKZ, which had a combined city and highway mileage of 45 mpg, is now lowered to 38 mpg combined. This is two mpg lower than the 300h 2014 Lexus ES sedan, which now has the highest gas mileage in the luxury hybrid category in the U.S.
"This was our mistake, plain and simple, and we apologize to our customers for it," says Raj Nair, product development chief at Ford. "We are taking steps to improve our process so this doesn't happen again."
Nair said Ford first became aware of the discrepancy in October last year, but attributed it to the individual vehicle being tested. After subsequent tests in March, Ford notified the EPA, which has given the car maker 15 days to revise its labels.
The discrepancy stems from an error made with the Total Road Load Horsepower, a vehicle-specific measurement of resistance level that determines the car's fuel-economy ratings. Ford calculates the car's resistance level using engineering models and verifies the figure through coastdown testing, where the car is made to roll down a slope.
"Without getting too complex, we do a physical wind tunnel test, and then use a correlation factor to enter that into the engineering model-which is then the total load horsepower test," said Nair. "The error was in the correlation factor in the model."
Around 215,000 vehicles are affected, majority of which are found in the United States. Around 13,000 cars are located in Canada, while the remaining 2,000 are found in markets that rely on U.S. testing. Ford said customers can expect letters until September detailing how they can receive their good will payments to compensate for their additional fuel expenses. Owners will receive anywhere from $200 to $1,050 depending on the model, while lessees will get $125 to $625.
Ford did not mention how much the error cost for the company, but said that no employees were disciplined due to the error.
Ford also made a similar but unrelated revision of its fuel-economy ratings for 2013 C-Max hybrid in August last year, which was launched with a rating of 47 mpg for combined city and highway driving but was lowered to 45 mpg following retesting spurred by complaints from customers that real-world mileage did not match Ford's label.