For Ford, it's all about "customer satisfaction"--a phrase it's repeated hundreds of times over the past nine months.
During that time, it's grappled with the realization that not only did its 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid not achieve anywhere close to its 47-mpg EPA rating, but the shortfall had made buyers very unhappy and was being covered extensively by the media.
Yesterday--as rumored--Ford said it would reduce the EPA rating on the 2013 C-Max Hybrid. The revised label has been cut from 47 mpg to 43 mpg.
Carmakers cannot rate vehicles higher than the mileage achieved in test results they submit to the EPA, but they are free to use lower ratings, as Ford is now doing.
Checks for 2013 C-Max buyers
Also to boost customer satisfaction, the company announced that it would also return money to all customers who took delivery of a 2013 C-Max Hybrid.
Ford said it would refund $550 to buyers, and $325 to those who only leased their C-Max compact hybrid hatchbacks.
Those sums are based on the increased fuel costs incurred by a 43-mpg car over one that gets 47 mpg, calculated over an average length of ownership or lease term using an average national fuel cost.
Altogether, Ford will send checks to roughly 32,000 customers, costing the company $10 million to $16 million.
The company said it is now mailing out letters to customers explaining the payments.
2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, Los Angeles, August 2012
EPA tests of a C-Max Hybrid completed last week came in at a combined rating of 41 mpg, the company said during a media teleconference yesterday.
The Federal agency said last December it would investigate the gas mileage of Ford's 2013 hybrids following widespread media reports--on this site and Consumer Reports, among others----that real-world figures were far lower than the vehicle's 47-mpg rating.
Ford stressed--repeatedly--that this was a voluntary action, all in the interests of customer satisfaction.
The 2013 Fusion Hybrid will remain at the tested rating of 47 mpg; Ford said it would not comment on pending litigation by owners over discrepancies in that car's real-world gas mileage as well.
More modifications detailed
For the 2014 C-Max Hybrid, it's already announced software upgrades--which can be applied to its three 2013 hybrid vehicles as well, including the C-Max--but it also released details of hardware updates for the 2014 model it hadn't previously discussed.
Those include a "more efficient" ratio for the final drive, updates to reduce aerodynamic drag from the hood seal, tire air deflectors, windshield-pillar moldings, and tailgate.
Ford will also use lower-friction engine oil in 2014 C-Max Hybrids.
We'll have a longer analysis of the whole Ford C-Max mileage mess--how it happened, and what it means--in the days to come.