Ford Hybrid Sales Go Gangbusters Despite Mileage Concerns

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2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012

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Ford may yet have to account for discrepancies between real-world mileage and EPA ratings on its hybrids, but any issues certainly aren't harming its sales.

The company reports that the C-Max hybrid has become the fastest-selling hybrid ever, with 8,030 units sold in its first two months on sale.

By comparison, the Toyota Camry Hybrid sold 7,300 units in its first two months on sale, May and June 2006.

Between C-Max Hybrid and the plug-in Energi hybrid, sales are three times that of the combined launch sales of the first-generation Toyota Prius and Honda Insight back in 2000.

We'd interject at this point and suggest that the latter statistic isn't surprising in the least, given that, like electric cars today, hybrids were very much new, unusual and disruptive technology back in 2000.

Beating such a figure would be like releasing a new electric car in a decade's time and celebrating its sales over today's Nissan Leaf...

Still, the Ford records keep piling in--the company also reports its best electrified vehicles sales ever in November, beating Prius V and Prius Plug-In sales by 10 percent, at 7,157 units.

And by the end of December, Ford is projecting all-time best quarterly sales for hybrid vehicles.

EPA grumbles explained?

That's great news for Ford, whose push into electrified vehicles appears to be paying off--despite issues regarding their hybrids' EPA mileage.

Consumer Reports, which rated Ford's hybrids 20 percent lower than EPA in its own independant testing, suggests why the EPA figures are so different from their own.

Much of it is to do with the respective organizations' highway tests. CR tests cars at a constant 65 mph, resulting in both Fords' gasoline engines running, rather than the cars' electric motors.

By comparison, EPA testing involves a constant 55 mph cruise--within the electric motor's capability--with occasional bursts up to 80 mph and back down again. While this would involve the gasoline engines kicking in, the coast-down periods would result in plenty of engine-off time, saving gas.

Ford itself has already explained the discrepancy, to some degree--the company has ensured that its hybrids are still fun to drive and offer good performance, potentially reducing real-world mileage.

As is so often the case, we'd return to the old caveat "your mileage may vary".

While both Ford hybrids still offer impressive economy, only the individual driver will know whether their own routes will return figures similar to EPA testing, or lower...


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Comments (10)
  1. Everyone should go here to look at the actual tests conducted to certify for EPA. Take a couple of minutes so you are better grounded in this type of conversation:

    The first two tests are the original tests. Three additional tests were added in 2008 to address complaints that the test did not measure real world mileage (especially Prius).

    The highway tests are NOT constant. The additional high-speed test was added that goes up to 80 mph; it has numerous speed changes and some full stops. But, the average speed is 48 mph which very likely allows a skilled technician to modulate in and out of electric-only with Ford's 62 mph capability.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful input to the conversation.

  3. "Still, the Ford records keep piling in-..." I am going to assume that Ford PR developed this talking point.

    In reality Prius sales for November 2012 were 16,505 units well more than double the 7,157 number in the story. But I understand, "carefully worded sentence" and all. The reality is different.

    Still, well done Ford, hope the mpg thing gets clearer.

  4. Wouldn't all hybrids show the same behavior? The Prii don't act like this.

  5. There are some basic differences.

    Comparing the Prius V to the C-Max, the V is lighter by about 330 pounds; it's longer and lower. V has a smaller engine, and substantially lower total power output. Ford's eCVT can stay in electric mode at a higher speed and has a more powerful traction motor.

    Just guessing:
    1. If you want to cruise at high speeds (65-70 mph), the Prius V always should be better due to better aero and smaller engine.
    2. If you are driving at mixed speeds between 35 and 60mph, the C-Max's extra weight might be more than offset by it's more robust eCVT.
    3. Stop and go, difficult to tell.

    In the EPA test, not sure but there might be times where the V has to have "foot to the floor" to keep up which would be negative.

  6. All you need is to drive like EPA test to get the EPA rating... :)

  7. I drive a 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid and the EPA's rating is fairly accurate with me usually pulling in better mileage than rated.

    I'd be interested in driving a CMax to compare my mileage returns against my Escape.

  8. The "the C-max can do 60 Mph on electric power" argument doesn't make much sense to me. This is not a plug-in, all the energy is derived from the gasoline tank. It's nice that the engine can shut down occasionally even at higher speeds, but it needs to be replaced further down the line to support the engine when it really counts: during acceleration. The only way the argument that the car can do more electric assisted miles during the test than other hybrids makes sense is if electricity is used that was already available in the pack at the beginning of the pack that wasn't completely replaced during the test and that isn't discounted in the final MPG figure.

  9. The test cycles does a lot of braking though..

    But you are right. It doesn't cover all the energy use. But remember that the EPA test cycle is AT MOST 11 miles. If Ford's regen system is efficient and its LI-ion battery is good at providing all the power, then it can significantly reduce the energy consumption.

    That is why many hwy cruisers find the C-Max hybrid MPG to be much lower...

  10. Open letter to Ford:

    I thought my 2013 C-MAX would be a Prius Killer? NOT! As a returning Ford buyer I feel deceived. I want to support US companies and US jobs. What was Ford thinking when they published 47/ 47/47 estimates? Based on the advertised EPA estimates, I would have been ok with low 40's but 28-33 mpg is not even in the ballpark. This is not an issue about EPA testing standards, but rather an issue about setting false customer expectations in order to promote sales. Ford's "47MPG" marketing campaign tarnished what should have been the roll out of a truly remarkable vehicle, the CMAX. Real world MPG estimates should have been promoted in the mid-30's.

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