Can Ford's C-Max And Fusion Hybrids Really Outsell Toyota?

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2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012

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Ford's hybrid sales have been on a roll this year, with two new models for 2013 now in showrooms across the country.

The company sold almost 30,000 Ford and Lincoln hybrids from January through April, just about triple the number in its best comparable previous period, which was 2011.

That led some incautious reporters to make reference to Ford perhaps besting hybrid powerhouse Toyota on its own turf.

Hometown newspaper The Detroit News, for instance, said last week that Ford's new hybrids are "challenging Toyota Motor Corp. for hybrid-vehicle supremacy."

Well, that all depends how you define "supremacy."

Certainly many reviewers have judged the 2013 Ford C-Max and 2013 Ford Fusion hybrids to be smooth, quiet, and comfortable, and perform better than their Toyota Prius and Toyota Camry Hybrid equivalents.

Volumes: not even close

But let's be clear: Ford will not come anywhere close to challenging Toyota in hybrid sales volume, either in the U.S. or globally, this year or in the near future.

Ford doesn't currently sell hybrids outside North America, though that may change in the next few years.

And in the U.S. market, Ford's total hybrid sales will be only a fraction of Toyota's.

If Ford keeps up its current pace of hybrid sales (including its Energi plug-in hybrid models), it will sell just under 90,000 hybrids in the U.S. this year.

That would be by far its best-ever hybrid sales year; its previous high was 35,496 back in 2010.

Toyota to exceed 200,000

By contrast, Toyota has already sold 55,700 Prius hybrids alone through April, meaning that its total will likely be more than 200,000 when all its other hybrid models are added in.

2013 Toyota Prius liftback

2013 Toyota Prius liftback

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Those include the Camry Hybrid, the Highlander Hybrid, the new-for-2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, and various Lexus hybrids, including the CT 200h compact hybrid hatchback.

Moreover, Ford has said for several years that it has capacity to build up to 100,000 electrified vehicles a year.

That includes hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and the small numbers of its Focus Electric battery-electric hatchback that it's sold to date.

That number will likely increase in years to come, helping Ford in its drive to meet new and more stringent gas-mileage rules--but at least for this year, that's its maximum.

So Toyota will remain comfortably in the lead for U.S. sales of hybrid vehicles--although Ford is making strides to reduce the difference.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, test drive, Catskill Mountains, NY, Mar 2013

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, test drive, Catskill Mountains, NY, Mar 2013

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Gas-mileage gap

Regrettably, neither Ford appears to achieve anything close to its 47-mpg EPA combined fuel-efficiency rating in real-world use.

Sufficient numbers of C-Max Hybrid and 2013 Fusion Hybrid buyers have complained that the EPA is now investigating those cars.

In the industry, the consensus is that it's more a problem with the difference between the EPA test cycles--set down in 1970, and subject only to numeric "adjustment factors" since then--and how drivers actually behave in the real world.

The EPA test results are the only gas-mileage figures that any carmaker is legally allowed to cite in advertisements and other marketing for their cars.


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Comments (9)
  1. I bought a C-Max Energi a little over 2 months ago and I cannot understand the mpg problem that some people say these cars have. On that tank of gas I got from the dealer I got 54.3 MPG and that was over mountain passes. I put gas in the car only once on April 5 and that was towards the end of a 560 mile round trip. I still have 3/8's of that gas and have gone over 700 miles so far. I am thinking that the mpg on that tank will be over 75. I also have 13 fuel credits for Safeway that I will use to take $1.00 off of the price of a gallon of gas. So this car is saving more than what I thought it would before I bought it. I believe that as more people find out about the savings they can get with this car sales will increase.

  2. You still fail to understand the difference between Energi model and non-energi model.

    Including your EV miles to dilute your MPG is false advertisement at its best...

  3. Currently getting 44.7mpg (lifetime) and climbing with my 2013 Fusion. A very happy customer.

  4. 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.

  5. This is one of the first articles I have read that clearly agrees that any published mileage claims are the result of EPA test procedures and adjustment factors. Our C Max energi has exceeded our expectations. Ronald Kramer continues to show his ignorance by accusing Ford of gaming the numbers and misrepresenting the EPA MPG estimate. The fact is that many owners are meeting or exceeding the EPA estimates and Mr. Kramer is in a minority of owners that chose to blame everyone, but themselves, for lack of understanding.

  6. Don, are you referring to CMAX owners hitting the EPA numbers or CMAX Energi owners? There is a big difference between the two because Energi owners can have extremely variable mpg numbers do to plugging in. With the extra electrical energy it's easy to mask poor gas only numbers. The CMAX owners on the forums are having trouble hitting EPA numbers with a few hypermiling exceptions.

  7. I believe Don Haga is primarily referring to the quirks of the EPA test procedures. Also to Ronald Kramer's misguided knock on Ford for publicizing the numbers their engineers recorded using the EPA's own tests. The test procedures -- on a dynamometer in a lab, simulating driving, i.e. not close to real street driving -- are a matter of federal law, and car-makers can incur severe fines for gaming the system. I disagree with Mr. Kramer -- this is an issue about EPA testing procedures and perhaps his own expectations. There's a reason for the warning, "your mileage may vary."

  8. One other thought for Mr. Kramer: EPA mileage numbers, by law, are the ONLY ones manufacturers can use in their advertising. Clearly, this IS an issue about EPA test procedures.

  9. If Toyota refuses to switch to lithium battery's then Ford will dominate much sooner .Ford is destined to over take Toyota when they go global with there Hybrid/Energi line up since they look and act like traditional car's.While Toyota's bug like looks has worn thin .

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