A number of cases have been filed recently against Ford Motor Company triggered by its admission in its official filings that it may have reported incorrect fuel economy figures for one or more of its vehicles. This class action makes the same allegations, but with more details about the process Ford allegedly used to manipulate figures. The complaint portrays it baldly as “cheating.”
The class for this action is all persons who bought or leased a Ford vehicle whose published EPA fuel economy rating, as printed on its window stickers, were more than the actual fuel economy rating obtained by a properly-conducted federal mileage test. The vehicles in question include, but are not limited to, model year 2019 Ford Rangers and 2018 and 2019 Ford F-150s.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets guidelines for performing fuel economy tests, but it leaves the actual testing to vehicle manufacturers. It tests only about 20% of vehicles itself.
Ford’s fuel economy tests are performed not on the road but on a device called a dynamometer, something like a treadmill for vehicles. Before testing on the dynamometer, Ford must do something called a coastdown test to determine how much resistance a vehicle encounters on an actual road and use that in conjunction with the dynamometer testing.
Coastdown tests help determine the “road loads” or resistance on the vehicle, including aerodynamic resistance, tire rolling resistance, and drivetrain and powertrain mechanical resistance. The complaint claims, “Ford’s internal lab tests did not account for these forces, which [led] to better—and entirely inaccurate—fuel economy projections…”
Not only that: The complaint refers to testing of the 2019 Ranger performed by Andre Smirnov of TheFastLaneTruck.com to make an even more startling allegation: Ford supported its claims for the Ranger by “programm[ing] its onboard computers with a mileage cheat device to continue to lie about the vehicle’s fuel economy…”
The complaint says that the company fudged its figures for two reasons: to be able to advertise Best in Class mileage figures to attract more customers, and to gain more credits for Ford under the US CAFE environmental regulations.
The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations are designed to encourage better fuel economy and lower emissions, leading to better health and reduced costs for treating illness. Companies are awarded points based on the fuel economy and emissions of their fleets as a whole. They may use the points to avoid fines in years when they do not manage to meet standards.
The complaint alleges that employees had already called Ford’s attention to the cheating by September 2018. However, Ford did not break the news publicly until February 2019. In the meantime, they kept selling vehicles with false fuel economy ratings. Ford is now under criminal investigation by the US Department of Justice.