Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced a $19.2 million multistate settlement with Ford Motor Co. regarding claims that Ford falsely advertised the real-world fuel economy of model year 2013–2014 C-Max hybrids and the payload capacity of model year 2011–2014 Super Duty pickup trucks.
Iowa will receive a $289,538 payment to its Consumer Education Fund from the settlement.
The settlement agreement also prohibits Ford from making false or misleading advertising claims concerning the estimated fuel economy or payload capacity of a new motor vehicle. It subjects Ford to penalties under the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act if a court determines that Ford violated the settlement agreement.
“Consumers place a premium on fuel-efficiency when shopping for new vehicles. For years, Ford advertised impressive fuel economy and payload capacity for its cars and trucks,” Attorney General Miller said. “Unfortunately, these figures were not based in reality, leaving customers with vehicles that did not meet their standards.”
2013–2014 C-Max Hybrids
The AG investigation revealed that Ford made several misleading representations about 2013–2014 C-Max hybrids including:
- Misrepresenting the distance consumers could drive on one tank of gas;
- Marketing that driving style would not affect real world fuel economy; and,
- Claiming superior real world fuel economy compared with other hybrids.
At one point, Ford ran a series of advertisements called the “Hybrid Games,” which were narrated like an Olympic sporting event and depicted the C-Max outperforming the Prius in a series of videos. The attorneys general allege that the videos deceptively reflected that C-Max vehicles offered superior real-world fuel economy and driving performance. Twice Ford had to lower the 2013 C-Max fuel economy rankings, which were initially promoted as 47 mpg in the city and highway, but eventually lowered to 42 mpg/city, 37 mpg/highway, and 40 mpg/city-highway mixed.
In 2013, Ford admitted that its initial fuel economy rating for the C-Max hybrid was likely overstated. The carmaker announced at the time that it would make a “goodwill payment” of $550 to consumers who purchased a 2013 C-Max hybrid and $325 to those who leased the vehicle, according to Edmunds.
2011–2014 Super Duty Pick-up Trucks
The attorneys general also investigated Ford’s deceptive and misleading “Best-in-Class” payload claims on its 2011–2014 Super Duty pick-up trucks, which includes the F-250, F-350, and F-450 models, a line that caters to consumers hauling and towing heavy loads.
In the world of truck advertising, the claim of “Best-in-Class” payload is a coveted title. The attorneys general allege that Ford devised a deceptive methodology to calculate maximum payload capacity based on a hypothetical truck configuration that omitted standard items such as the spare wheel, tire and jack, center flow console (replacing it with a mini console), and radio. The trucks’ hypothetical payload capacity increased by approximately 154 to 194 pounds, just enough for Ford to advertise a misleading Best-in-Class payload.
Ford used this deceptive strategy only for calculating payload for advertising purposes; it did not use that strategy for calculating actual payload capacity of individual Super Duty pick-up trucks. Although Ford advertised the Best-in-Class payload as available to all consumers, only fleet purchasers (a limited category of businesses that purchase multiple new vehicles each year for commercial purposes) could order trucks equipped so that they could achieve the advertised payload capacity. Individual purchasers could not purchase a Super Duty pickup truck that realized Ford’s Best-in-Class payload claims.
In early 2021, Ford recalled its model year 2020 Super Duty vehicles due to the overstated payload capacity values. Following the recall, a class action lawsuit was filed over the incorrect labeling, Ford Authority reported. That case is currently pending.