TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that New Jersey is participating in a $19.2-million multistate settlement with Ford Motor Company that resolves claims the automaker falsely advertised the real-world fuel economy of its C-Max hybrid vehicles and the payload capacity of its Super Duty pickup trucks.
New Jersey will receive approximately $614,522.51 from the settlement.
“Misleading claims by manufacturers about their vehicles’ fuel economy can result in consumers paying more than expected at the pump,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “Today’s settlement sends the important message that we will hold accountable any vehicle manufacturer that deceives consumers about the real-world affordability of driving one of their vehicles.”
“This is an important outcome for consumers in New Jersey and across the nation,” said Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Cari Fais. “Deceiving consumers about fuel efficiency estimates and truck hauling capacity not only lacks integrity – it is illegal. Now more than ever, consumers are harmed when auto makers ignore their duty to be truthful about the fuel economy and other key features of the vehicles they manufacture.”
The investigation of Ford by 42 Attorneys General found that Ford made several misleading representations about the fuel economy of its model year 2013 and 2014 C-Max hybrids in order to claim competitive advantage over other vehicles in the same class. Those misleading claims allegedly included:
- Misrepresenting the distance consumers could drive on one tank of gas;
- Asserting that driving style would not influence the vehicles’ real-world fuel economy; and
- Claiming superior real-world fuel economy compared to other hybrids.
At one point, Ford ran a series of advertisements called the “Hybrid Games.” The commercials were narrated like an Olympic sporting event and depicted the Ford C-Max outperforming the Toyota Prius in a series of videos.
New Jersey and the other participating states allege that those videos deceptively implied that C-Max vehicles offered superior real-world fuel economy and driving performance, which was not the case.
On two occasions, Ford actually had to scale back its 2013 C-Max vehicles’ fuel economy ratings, which were initially touted as 47 mpg in the city and highway, but eventually had to be lowered to 42 mpg/city, 37 mpg/highway, and 40 mpg/city-highway mixed. The settlement announced today corrects Ford’s deceptive practices and, going forward, will help ensure that Ford does not make similar false or misleading advertising claims in the future.
The Attorneys General also investigated Ford’s deceptive and misleading “Best-in-Class” payload claims with regard to its model year 2011–2014 Super Duty pick-up trucks. The Super Duty line of trucks includes Ford’s F-250, F-350, and F-450 pick-up models, and caters to consumers seeking to haul and tow heavy loads. A vehicle’s payload capacity is the maximum amount of weight it can safely carry.
In the world of pickup-truck advertising, a designation as “Best-in-Class” payload is a coveted title, and the Attorneys General allege that Ford used a deceptive methodology for reclaiming it after other trucks had surpassed Ford in the previous model year.
In calculating the maximum payload capacity of its vehicles, the investigation found, Ford employed a truck configuration it did not actually intend to sell to individual buyers – one that omitted such standard items as the spare wheel, tire and jack, radio, and center console (which was replaced by a mini-console).
Using this “content deleted” truck configuration as a reference, Ford was able to add additional pounds to the maximum advertisable payload capacity of its Super Duty truck — just enough for Ford to reclaim the title of “Best-in-Class” for payload. Ford only used this deceptive calculation for advertising purposes, the Attorneys General found, and did not use it for calculating the actual payload capacity of individual Super Duty trucks earmarked for sale to consumers.
Deputy Attorney General Bryan S. Sanchez, of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, handled the Ford matter on behalf of the State.
The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs within the Department of Law and Public Safety is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.