Ford Pays Cash to Hybrid Owners

The fuel mileage on Ford’s current crop of hybrids is so lousy that the automaker is paying buyers around $1,050. The company is paying out the cash because the hybrids’ mileage basically stinks.

Each owner of a Ford Fiesta, C-Max, Fusion, or Lincoln MKZ hybrid will receive a check between $200 and $1,050 from Ford. The money is being paid out because the computer modeling that Ford used to determine the vehicles’ fuel mileage was way off.

Ford's C-Max Hybrid

Ford’s C-Max Hybrid

The Ford C-Max hybrid actually got 43 miles to the gallon, not the 47 mpg it had advertised. Obviously buyers are not very happy about this.

Ford, which discovered the error itself, is making the payments to avoid having its reputation follow GM’s into the toilet. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requiring Ford to retest its entire vehicle fleet.

Ford isn’t the only major hybrid maker facing this problem. Consumer Reports discovered that Honda’s Accord Hybrid only gets 40 mpg, not the 47 mpg that the stickers say it does.

Ford’s problems call the whole concept of hybrids and their future into question. That may also be good news for alternatives such as hydrogen-electric fuel cells, electric cars, natural gas burning cars, propane vehicles, and clean diesel technology.

Auto Buyers Beware of Mileage Claims

One also has to wonder about all the fuel mileage claims from the various car manufacturers. How accurate are they in real life? And if Ford’s computer modeling is wrong, what about some of its competitors?

My guess is that the auto industry will have to re-evaluate the whole concept of hybrids and how they are marketed. Hybrids (or rather electric-drive cars) are here to stay. In the future, they might not be marketed as fuel efficient vehicles.

Lincoln MKZ 13

Lincoln MKZ 13

Part of the problem is that car companies don’t have to actually test hybrid’s mileage; they can simply advertise an estimate of the mileage. Another problem is that the testing only covers speeds under 60 mph (does anybody drive less than 60 on the freeway?). In other words, the gas mileage estimates are not reliable and not necessarily based upon science.

The hybrid scandal, which comes at the same time as the Civil War in Iraq, and fears about oil supplies and gasoline shortages isn’t going to help the auto industry. Carmakers are going to have to work real hard to re-earn the public’s trust, particularly after the GM recalls.

Auto buyers had better learn not believe stickers claims about fuel mileage. They might be about as reliable as the odometer readings on used cars, particularly when it comes to hybrids.

Those car companies that have invested in fuel cells and clean diesel might also laugh all the way to the bank at Ford’s expense. I also have to wonder what else the auto industry is not telling us.