Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. has started mailing checks to owners of the C-Max Hybrid to compensate them after lowering its fuel economy rating.

In August, Ford cut the 2013 C-Max Hybrid’s rating to 43 mpg in city and highway driving from 47 mpg. The announcement was made as the Environmental Protection Agency said it was re-evaluating the testing process for hybrids and electric vehicles in response to customer complaints that they were not achieving the fuel economy advertised on the auto stickers.

Ford said it previously used its Fusion Hybrid as a standard measurement for the fuel economy of all of its hybrids but will now test and label the C-Max Hybrid separately.

“Hybrids can be subjected to a lot of different driving conditions — climate, speed, air-conditioning and heat usage — and all these things affect the fuel-economy of hybrids more than conventional vehicles,” Todd Nissen, a spokesman, said.

C-Max Hybrid buyers will receive $550, while people who lease will get $325. The voluntary rebate is intended to reimburse drivers for the extra money they will spend on gas beyond what they had been led to expect.

The checks are being mailed in batches to 32,000 through mid-October.

“Even though the current label was generated in accordance with applicable regulations, Ford has voluntarily chosen to relabel 2013 C-Max Hybrid vehicles to better reflect the performance of the vehicle,” C.J. O’Donnell, Ford’s group marketing manager for electrification, wrote in the letter to customers.

Ford announced in July, a month before it relabeled the C-Max Hybrid’s fuel economy, that drivers of C-Max, Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ hybrids could return to their dealers for software upgrades to improve fuel economy. The automaker’s plug-in hybrids were not affected by the software upgrades or fuel economy revision.

Any 2013 C-Max Hybrids made after July incorporate the software upgrades and come with stickers labeling the car’s fuel economy as 43 mpg. Ford said it was also upgrading the 2014 model, which goes on sale this fall.

Ford declined to say how much the rebates will cost, but the payout will vary from about $10 million to $17 million, depending on the mix of owned and leased cars.