Con-Fusion: Class Actions Accuse Ford of Greenwashing Hybrid Vehicle Fuel Efficiency

In the latest fuel efficiency greenwashing litigation (see, e.g., here), Ford has been hit with two class actions alleging the automaker misrepresented the miles per gallon achieved by its Fusion and C-Max SE hybrid vehicles.

The complaints (Pitkin – Ford Complaint; Strand – Ford Complaint), filed recently in federal court in Los Angeles and Santa Ana, accuse Ford of a “systematic advertising scheme” deceptively touting the cars’ combined (city and highway) 47 mpg EPA gas mileage estimate. 

According to plaintiffs, the EPA estimates do not provide actual mileage for a vehicle under normal, real life driving conditions because the test conditions are designed to maximize fuel mileage.  The EPA tests are conducted using lab machines called dynamometers instead of roads, one of the complaints says.  In addition, the highway portion of the test uses a speed range of only about 48-60 miles per hour and is performed by a professional driver.

According to the complaints, Consumer Reports found that the C-Max hybrid achieved a combined 37 mpg, and the Fusion hybrid a combined 39 mpg, well under the advertised 47 mpg figure. 

The class plaintiffs accuse Ford of misleading consumers by advertising the EPA mpg estimates as actual, expected mileage under normal, real world driving conditions while failing to disclose that the ratings are mere estimates based on particular testing conditions.

There seems to be an increasing outcry about autombile mileage testing criteria and automakers’ use of EPA data in advertising.  One of the major allegations in the Hyundai and Kia greenwashing cases is that the automakers employed flawed fuel economy testing procedures.  Perhaps it’s time for better testing procedures to reflect real world driving conditions and/or for car companies to better communicate exactly what the fuel estimates mean.

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.