Most people know that EPA fuel economy estimates can't be trusted. They're conducted in a lab and represent the best-case scenario (and maybe even wishful thinking). It's just like when your co-worker brags about how much he can bench press. Sure you benched 320lbs, Brian. Sure you did.
You can't blame consumers for expecting results that are at least reasonably close to the window sticker. Especially when they paid a premium and presumably bought a hybrid with gas savings in mind.
It's no surprise then that one of the most common complaints we see about hybrids is how it doesn't get anywhere near the fuel economy I was promised. Here are a few instances where those gripes were legitimate.
You could say the first time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actually did anything to hold manufacturers accountable for their MPG estimates, was in 2012 when the agency slammed Hyundai and Kia for the fuel economy ratings of their 2012 and 2013 models.
While this didn't necessarily relate to hybrids, it set a president where the EPA was cracking down on blatant attempts to game the system. And Hyundai / Kia paid dearly in the form of a $395 million settlement.
The compensation was meh, however. Of that $395 million, only $185 million would go to owners. And owners had to choose to participate in a lump-sum payment, which for each Kia owner was about $667. Hyundai owners, meanwhile, got $353 on average.
We first saw an automaker make automatic "goodwill payments" in June 2014, when Ford announced they would be reimbursing 200,000 hybrid owners for false mileage ratings.
"Ford has announced it will lower the fuel economy ratings for its model year 2013-2014 hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles as well as most model year 2014 Fiestas. The hybrids include the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, C-MAX Hybrid, C-MAX Energi, and Energi versions of the Ford Fusion."
This was a big deal since the models in question were all hybrids where owners paid a premium for fuel efficiency. And when they didn't get it, they made their voices heard. However, there wasn't much hope before the payments that anything substantial would get done.
But the EPA cracked down on Ford and mandated that they updated their MPG estimates, and updated all the stickers on unsold cars.
Ford is once again making MPG headlines for all the wrong reasons. Apparently the "goodwill payments" weren't good enough for Dave DeLuca, a 2014 Fusion Hybrid owner who sued Ford for false MPG ratings.
"DeLuca said he noticed the Fusion didn't seem to be getting the mileage it should, so he took the car back to the dealership and told them about the decreased fuel economy. According to the lawsuit, DeLuca was told nothing could be done because nothing was wrong with the car."
Interestingly, the lawsuit accuses Ford of updating the software on the Fusion Hybrid to make the car appear to get better mileage (via the dashboard), when in reality it's the same ole', same ole'.