DETROIT – Drivers of the nation’s top-selling vehicle, the 2018 or 2019 Ford F-150 pickup, could be spending an extra $2,000 in fuel because Ford Motor Co. falsified fuel economy tests.
That’s the accusation in a lawsuit that seeks to be certified as a class action filed Monday by Seattle law firm Hagens Berman on behalf of truck consumers. The suit seeks $1.2 billion in damages.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, also includes anyone who bought or leased a 2019 Ford Ranger. Attorneys expect to expand the models and model-year vehicles affected as testing continues.
“We did the math and based this lawsuit on our own independent research. Ford’s fuel economy promises are all smoke and mirrors,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “Ford’s lies about the F-150 are masking the truth: Consumers are paying far more for these trucks than meets the eye. Over the lifetime of the vehicle, we believe F-150 owners are paying more than $2,000 more for fuel.”
On Monday, Ford spokesman T.R. Reid said the automaker had not yet been served the filing, but said based on media inquiries, “what was announced today appears to be similar to two other filings by the same law firm in the same court. I’d ask you not to confuse claims with merit.” .
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Employees raised concerns
On Feb. 21, 2019, Ford said its employees, through an anonymous reporting process, had raised concerns about the way Ford calculated road loads, which are used to provide the Environmental Protection Agency with vehicle miles per gallon ranges.
At that time Ford said it had begun an internal investigation into whether its vehicles have worse gas mileage and emit more pollutants than car, truck and SUV labels state, going back to 2017 models.
“Our investigation continues into how Ford estimates road load as part of the U.S. fuel economy and emissions certification process,” Kim Pittel, the company’s vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering, said at the time.
The anonymous report was made in September 2018.
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The Department of Justice opened a criminal investigation into Ford’s testing processes for the 2019 Ford Ranger in April. The probe focused on Ford’s road-load estimates, including analytical and coastdown procedures used to determine EPA fuel-efficiency figures.
Coastdown is a test performed on a flat road to calculate the resistance offered to a running vehicle. According to the EPA, “Road-load is the force imparted on a vehicle while driving at constant speed over a smooth level surface from sources such as tire rolling resistance, driveline losses, and aerodynamic drag.”
The contested tests
The lawsuit filed Monday alleges this road-load issue also affected the F-150.
According to the suit, plaintiffs conducted tests using EPA-mandated coastdown procedures and found that Ford overstated the fuel economy in its F-150 trucks by 15% for highway mileage and 10% for city mileage.
“Ford fudged its coastdown testing and used inaccurate drag and resistance figures to boost the vehicles’ EPA mileage ratings,” the lawsuit says.
Auto expert firm Edmunds declined to comment on the validity of this lawsuit’s research Monday.
“When it comes to mpg and fuel economy testing, our experts can only really speak to the testing process that our engineers conduct themselves at Edmunds,” said Talia James, spokeswoman for Edmunds.
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The lawsuit says that assuming the lifetime of a truck is 150,000 miles, city driving would consume an extra 821 gallons over the lifetime of the truck, or at a $2.79 national average fuel price, an extra $2,290 in fuel costs. The extra highway fuel would be 968 gallons or $2,700, it said.
The lawsuit seeks to recover damages related to the alleged false fuel economy of affected Ford F-150 trucks and get an injunction to stop Ford’s design, manufacture, marketing, sale, and lease of the pickups.
Follow Jamie L. LaReau on Twitter @jlareauan.