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Ford Hybrid Owners Sue Over Fuel-Efficiency Rating Claims

April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co., the No. 2 U.S. automaker, was sued by Pennsylvania car owners who said its hybrid models don’t deliver on fuel-efficiency claims.

Ford’s 2013 Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid models provide significantly worse fuel economy than the advertised 47 miles per gallon, according to a complaint filed today in federal court in Philadelphia. The inaccurate representations allowed Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford to falsely claim that those models outperformed competing vehicles, according to the car owners.

“Plaintiffs are some of the tens of thousands of consumers who purchased a Fusion Hybrid or C-Max Hybrid, only to be stuck with under-performing, less valuable vehicles that inflict higher fuel costs on their owners,” according to the complaint.

The Fusion, redesigned by Ford late last year, was the sixth best-selling model in the U.S. through March. Last month the model was selling from dealer lots faster and at higher prices than Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry and Honda Motor Co.’s Accord. The hybrid version is advertised as having many of the same features as luxury cars such as the Mercedes C350, with double the fuel economy and a sticker price that’s about $17,000 less.

“Ford’s fuel economy labels are generated in accordance with EPA procedures and protocols,” Todd Nissen, a Ford spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. He declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying that the company doesn’t discuss pending litigation.

‘Driveability’ Facility

Ford knew or should have known that the hybrid versions of the C-Max and Fusion don’t deliver advertised fuel ratings, according to the complaint. The company uses a “driveability” test facility to simulate real-world conditions and both cars also come equipped with a SmartGauge on-board computer that displays current fuel economy, according to the complaint.

Ford said in December that it’s talking to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about how it tests fuel economy performance on new vehicles amid reports that its hybrids fell short of mileage promises. Nissen said today that the company agrees with the EPA “that hybrid fuel economy performance industrywide is far more variable compared to conventional models.”

“We are open to a dialogue with the agencies to further improve the process for generating fuel economy labels,” Nissen said in the statement.

Mileage Test

The Fusion and C-Max models fell 17 percent to 21 percent short of the promised 47 miles per gallon in tests by Consumer Reports. The Fusion hybrid achieved 39 mpg while the C-Max hybrid averaged 37 mpg in tests of city and highway driving, Yonkers, New York-based Consumer Reports said in December.

Estimates submitted by car owners to a fuel economy tracking website have averaged 38.5 mpg, according to the complaint. A 10-mpg difference can equate to about $1,800 in additional fuel costs over five years, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, which seeks damages of at least $5 million, accuses Ford of fraud and violating the state’s unfair-trade practices and consumer protection laws.

The case is Huff v. Ford Motor Co., 13-02168, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

To contact the reporter on this story: Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at spearson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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