Ford’s MPG Claim Retraction – Toyota Truthful MPG Estimates?

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Ford recently whacked the MPG estimates of its C-Max to placate regulators and angry customers. Is the fight for MPG supremacy pushing companies too far? Is Toyota next or are they truthful?

Ford's MPG Claim Retraction - Toyota Only Truthful MPG Estimates?

This Ford C-Max hasn’t been getting close to its EPA estimates. We now know why.

When Hyundai and Kia “relabeled” their cars last November due to MPG over-estimates, it was a telling sign that the EPA might have had enough with exaggerated claims. Then, Honda got sued over MPG and the owner won. Whoa, it seemed like the MPG issue may be important. Now, Ford joins the fray of those getting their hands slapped by the EPA. However, according to the EPA, they did nothing “illegal.”

What did they do? They simply used the EPA often criticized evaluation program to their benefit. They based the C-Max’s fuel economy estimates on the powertrain of a similar car – the Fusion Hybrid. Seems legit, they both have the same engine and transmission. Except, the Fusion is a much more aerodynamic car. How much more? Try 4 mpg better or 8.5 percent.

Sadly, Ford’s transgression isn’t going to cost them very much, just $550 to U.S. buyers and $325 to U.S. lease customers. This isn’t a big chunk, however, it will seriously eat at the already tiny profit of these cars.

Interestingly, Toyota had the opportunity to do the very same thing Ford did. When Toyota launched the Prius v (a much larger model), they could have used the same EPA estimates for the smaller Prius. This is because the EPA test procedures say that “all car configurations with the same engine, transmission and weight class are grouped together,” according to an story. So, Toyota could have said the Prius v would get 50 mpg like the smaller Prius. They choose to give it the much more reasonable rating of 44 city/40 highway/42 combined. That 8 MPG difference is a big deal, yet it hasn’t stopped buyers from choosing that model.

As most everyone knows, MPG is a big deal to everybody – buyers, marketers, automakers and those not living under a rock. Having a vehicle gain 1-2 mpg more or be “best in class” is a big deal (see: Ram). Yet, consumers are starting to get savvy when it comes to these numbers. The reality is that “real-world fuel economy” matters a whole heck of a lot more than “EPA estimates.” Yet, fuel economy is such a finicky thing. There are so many variables that it is easily an educated guess ALL the time.

Why does this matter to truck guys? Simple. For years, the Tundra has lagged behind other manufactures in EPA estimated fuel economy. Although when comparing apples to apples (crew cab to crew cab, 4×4 to 4×4), the differences aren’t that much different, they are still there. Toyota reps have consistently said that they base their numbers more on “truth” than “fiction.” The statement is simple, “if we say it will get 17 MPG, it WILL get 17 MPG.” The Prius example above is a good example of this “truth.”

While, we are certainly not calling out other manufactures for bloated fuel economy numbers (towing is another matter), this news by Ford certainly raises questions. Is the F-150 accurate? What do they base their numbers on for light-duty trucks? Who else is bloating numbers?

What do you think? What was your reaction to this news?

Related Posts:
Is Your New Tundra Getting The EPA Rated Gas Mileage?
2013 Hemi Ram 1500 To Get 25mpg?
Toyota Screwed Over during Fuel Efficiency Negotiations?

Filed Under: Auto News


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  1. Brian J says:

    Interestingly, many years ago when the EPA changed its fuel economy calculations the first time Toyota and Honda took the biggest hit as they often under-filled crankcases as one way of getting the best numbers. The American companies were not nearly as affected as their practices were not as devious at the time. Of course real consumers would never under-fill their crankcases with oil, so they never achieved the promised numbers from Toyota and Honda. Then again, no one did because the EPA’s method was not realistic then either. I do seem to recall Toyota’s fuel economy numbers dropping by a good 4-5 mpg whereas GM and Ford seemed to only lose 1-2 mpg on average when the new standard from the EPA was enforced. Big differences when the methods were standardized more than they used to be!

    Perhaps that experience taught Toyota not to inflate numbers as they had in the past and that is why they are posting more ‘realistic’ numbers today?

  2. Larry says:

    People should know the millage the model gets before they go to the dealer. Dealers and manufactures can’t be trusted. It’s not difficult to seek out someone who has the target auto and talk with them.

    miles/gallons = MPG

    It’s amazing how many can’t do this.

    As for under-filling the crankcase,,,,, what does that do? I have never heard that before. Does it make the car lighter or something?

    • LJC says:

      Less internal resistance for the engine. For example, when you run out of the ocean and the water gets shallower, you are able to run with less effort.

      Same thing here I think.
      These days for newer vehicles, thinner oil is used, ‘cept problem with that is the engine will burn more oil as it squeezes by the piston rings.

  3. Brian J says:

    I will have to find the article I read back then about this. I believe it was in Car & Driver or something along those lines. Allegedly, somehow less oil in the crankcase decreased oil pump load and parasitic drain in the engine. I will do my best to find it. More to come!

  4. mk says:

    I don’t know about you all, but in all my vehicles I have in all 16+ of them bought new since around 1990 (yah I like to trade every few years) all my vehicles have achieved hwy. epa estimates no problems. Never had a lemon in terms of poor gas mileage.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      I’m not 1000% sure, but I would wager this EPA fuel economy issue is really flaring up in the past 5-10 years or so. Or when gas prices really climbed. I remember buying cars/trucks in the late 80s and 90s without ever really considering fuel economy.


  5. Mickey says:

    I Kind of agree with you Tim. Now my wife did back 6 years ago think of mpg’s when she did her researched and ended up with an 07 Prius. She still gets 50mpg at 133,000 miles. The same goes as far as the epa est on both 07 Prius and 07 Tundra CM. Hers was 51mpg city and 48 hwy. Mine was 18mpg city and 20 hwy. I get a little more on both. Not only those manufacturers are getting hit with bloated mpg’s wait till the downfall of J2807 standards come into play. People will see the same in the towing category.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Agreed that when the Prius came on the market years ago, it made MPG a factor in car buying. Up until then, it wasn’t a factor at all. I feel that Toyota is feeling the effects of this with the Tundra, frankly. When they first started designing it in 2005, nobody cared about MPG or ride quality in full-size trucks. Now, it seems to be a HUGE factor. With their limited resources on the full-size truck side (1 factory, limited R&D), they are pretty much stuck, I believe, with the frame and design that was built back then. There really is only so much they can do to improve MPG with the components they have. Now, GM, Ford and Ram have a lot more capability and plants to make quick changes to their lineups. Plus, they all really need the profit from full-size trucks to be successful. Toyota? Not so much.

      I, personally, wonder what Toyota will decide to do with MPG. Their old line that there truck is comparable, doesn’t hold sand any longer. Adding direct injection, sounds wonderful to consumers, but at what cost. Would you spend $1k, 2k, 4k more for this to see 1-2 MPG improvements? Like everyone talks about with diesels and hybrids, where is the break even point. I believe Toyota has/is seriously weighing those pros and cons. If DI and other items were a simple $500 investment for 2-3 MPG improvement, it would be a no brainer. It must not be and that has to be why Toyota is treading slowly on this issue.

      Like I have said many, many times, there is nothing really wrong with the Tundra and yes it gets less MPG than the competition, but not by 5-10 MPGs better. Just a couple. The next 3 years are going to be really interesting for Toyota and time will tell if they plan to radically shake things up (redesign frame/engine to be a LOT lighter and fuel efficient) or stay the course.

      I’m really not sure myself.


      • Larry says:


        You once authored “Is the Regular Cab Pickup Doomed?” A better title would be is the light truck doomed?

        Published numbers which I have seen for 1/2 ton pickup CAFE.

        2015 – 23.5 MPG
        2015 – 25
        2020 – 30

        As an engineer I can tell everyone that any truck built from steel which weighs in at 4500 pounds which has a gas motor, 350 HP and 350 foot/lb of pulling power is not going to get 30 MPG. Would it be possible if most of the truck was built from carbon fiber. Maybe but I don’t think I want to know what the price will be and after the first fender bender collision it will be broken into little pieces.

        How will they meet that 30MPG requirement> It will drop 1500s pound and it won’t be a truck any longer. My Subaru Forester with a 2.5L engine does not get 30 MPG and it weighs in at 3200 pounds empty. Will a Tundra or any other truck which can tow 15000 pounds with a 5.7 V8 ever weigh 3200 pounds.

        The number will be met but it won’t be a real world quantity. Empty truck, cursing on rollers in a lab. Put it on the road and load it and 20 will be a pipe dream.

        If air fuel mixture is 14:1 we are closing in on very high efficiency now. Unless people are going to give up a 750 pound V8 engine and transmission, these numbers won’t happen. Even with a small 2.5 gas motor in a truck weighing 3200 pounds it’s not going to get a real 30MPG number and then it won’t be able to haul anything.

        These numbers people are reporting of cruising on the highway yielding 22 MPG prove what? That’s not why people buy trucks. The last time I was out creeping over rocks in low range at 4 MPH I wasn’t getting 10 MPG and that was with a small V6. The last time I towed a trailer with a light boat and a full bed of camping supplies 500 miles to Lee’s Ferry for a Grand Canyon river trip I got 12 with that V6. What’s the point of telling everyone I get 19 MPG driving around on the highway at 60. My neighbor tells me his 5.7 Tundra gets an all around 13 MPG driving around the mountains of Park City at 7500 feet. We are to believe that truck is going to get 30 MPG in 2025. Who’s fooling who?

        The only way to get around these numbers with a gas motor will be to move up to the HD line of trucks which will remain trucks.

        Big changes are on the way and the modern light truck will be the Nomad station wagon of year 2025 and it won’t be capable of any kind of real work.

        Mark my words, these trucks are gong to become worthless and when that happens people will start to migrate to the F250, Ram 2500, GM 3/4 ton and whatever HD truck Toyota puts out and when that happens the FEDs are going to start pushing CAFE on them.

        Every year it will be more money for less truck. The trend in not positive.

        • Tim Esterdahl says:


          As always you bring up excellent points. And yes, there are simply going to have to be changes in the light-duty segment to reach the CAFE requirements. It is really a like it or tough situation. I do agree there is a feeling out there that HD sales may grow exponentially after 2016 with the aforementioned “gutted” light-duty trucks.

          Unfortunately, right now, it is just speculation. I am really interested to see how it all unfolds as I think there will be a return of an El Camino like truck, a shelled out light-duty truck and then a HD truck. As many engineers have said to me, “A full-size truck is a big box with wheels. There is only so much you can do to make it more aerodynamic.”

          Sounds like you NEED to buy a new truck before 2016?!? 🙂


  6. Mickey says:

    Tim at the time now I don’t care about mpg’s since I know how to squeeze it out of a Tundra. I just want that comfortable piece of mind thing. Truck is about paid off so mpg’s really go out of the window. The engine Toyota has now is way strong enough and when used properly will get those mpg’s. Now if they want more mpg’s how about mating that wonderful engine with an 8 speed tranny. Then they won’t have to worry about CAFE. Still very interested in a 1794 edition all black CrewMax.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      A 1794 in all black eh? That sounds sweet! If you buy one, we want pictures.


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