As the lawsuits multiply, Ford is also facing a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the testing process it used to obtain the Ranger’s fuel economy ratings. The company was first alerted to the issue in September 2018 through an internal reporting system created for Ford employees to report problems they saw with the products.
Escalating Fuel Economy Lawsuits
Early reports described the issue as “incorrect calculations [that] were used to translate test results into the mileage and emissions data submitted to regulators,” effectively a mathematical error.
Ford emphasized that the issue did not involve the use of defeat devices — hardware and software designed to deceive government emissions tests, as had been the case with Volkswagen in 2015. Four years ago, Volkswagen used defeat devices to make models equipped with diesel engines appear to comply with emissions standards when, in fact, they emitted far more pollution than permitted.
By April 2019, however, the US Department of Justice had opened a criminal inquiry into Ford’s testing practices, specifically relating to road load estimations, including analytical modeling and physical track testing. Road load is a vehicle-specific resistance level that helps determine fuel economy ratings and emissions certifications.
Attorney Gary Graifman, of Schmidt National Law Group, who has filed a Ford class action lawsuit on behalf of Ford customers nationwide, notes that, “Our clients indicated they are not getting anywhere near the mileage advertised.”
Another lawsuit, Brewer v. Ford Motor Co, filed July 2019 in the Eastern District of Michigan, adds 2018 and 2019 F-150 trucks to the vehicles at issue. Notably, in addition to faulty testing and calculation, that Complaint alleges that certain vehicles were also equipped with a cheat device, a computer that misrepresents the mileage displayed on the trip meter.
Brewer v. Ford Motor Co
This latest lawsuit names as a class of plaintiffs:
“[a]ll persons who purchased or leased a Ford vehicle whose published EPA fuel economy ratings, as printed on the vehicles’ window sticker, were more than the fuel economy rating produced by a properly conducted applicable federal mileage test. The vehicles in the class include but are not limited to the model year 2019 Ford Ranger and the 2018 and 2019 Ford F-150.”
The lawsuit claims that this group of plaintiffs was injured because Ford falsified its miles per gallon or “MPG rating” tests to boost the vehicles’ EPA mileage ratings.
The window sticker for a Ford F-150 V6 indicated mileage of 20 city, 26 highway, and 22 combined, for example. Accurate testing of the same year and model revealed that the real highway fuel number was 22.7 MPG compared to 26.6 reported by Ford to the EPA. For city driving it was 17.7 MPG compared to 19.6 reported to the EPA. Assuming the lifetime of a truck was 150,000 miles, at the real city miles per gallon rates, city driving would consume an extra 821 gallons over the lifetime of the truck. At $2.79 national average fuel price, this would equal an extra $2,290 in fuel costs above Ford’s reported miles per gallon.
The class is expected to ultimately include owners or lessees of other Ford vehicles, as well. The Complaint cites violations of state law in 49 out of 50 states (excluding only Tennessee).
What should consumers do?
READ MORE FORD FUEL ECONOMY LEGAL NEWS
The issue is whether your truck had a deceptive window tag describing an unrealistic fuel economy rating. People do not necessarily save those window tags (also called Monroney stickers), but this is not dispositive if your vehicle falls within the class of trucks affected. You should call a lawyer to understand your rights if your Ford vehicle is one of those named in current litigation – principally newer Ford Rangers and F-150s.
This is not the first time that Ford has been caught for making incorrect fuel economy claims. In 2014, Ford lowered fuel economy ratings for six other models and offered compensation to customers.