Ford Motor Co. is the latest car maker to face criticism and litigation over allegedly false advertising claims about fuel economy ratings.

The Dearborn, Mich., automaker faces a federal lawsuit charging the new C-Max and Fusion hybrids vehicles fail to deliver promised fuel economy claims.

Ford's 2013 C-Max Hybrid, an all new brand Ford hopes will challenge Toyota's Prius, and the Fusion Hybrid mid-sized sedan are EPA rated at 47 mpg city/47 highway/47 combined. But the lawsuit seeking class-action status, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California, says Ford's marketing campaign touting the vehicles' fuel economy is "false and misleading."

The plaintiff, Richard Pitkin of Roseville, Calif., wants Ford to reimburse him and other owners the purchase price and rescind sales of vehicles purchased in California.

A Ford spokesperson said the company is aware of the suit, but added that the company cannot comment on pending litigation.

The suit was filed by law firm McCuneWright in Redlands, Calif., which also recently sued Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia over false mileage claims. Those companies recently agreed to reimburse consumers who bought the vehicles named in the suit.

The lawyers and plaintiff have a powerful ally in Consumer Reports Magazine. The C-Max Hybrid's real-world mileage is 37 mpg, or around 21 percent lower than Ford's claims, while the Fusion Hybrid came up 8 mpg short at 39 mpg, Consumer Reports magazine said this month after conducting initial road tests of the models.

The influential magazine said the C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid have the largest discrepancy between "our overall mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we've seen among any current models."

"Among current models, more than 80 percent of the vehicles we've tested are within 2 mpg," the magazine wrote.

Ford officials have confirmed it is talking with the EPA about how it tests fuel economy performance. And the EPA is reviewing Consumer Reports' findings.

Last month, Hyundai and Kia admitted to selling more than 900,000 U.S. vehicles with overstated fuel economy ratings in the 2011-13 model years. The two companies, which share ownership in Korea, as well as engineering resources, said they will lower the fuel economy estimates on most of their 2012 and 2013 models.

It is a big blow to both Hyundai/Kia and Ford to have their MPG claims challenged. Both companies have said over the last few years that class leading fuel economy equates to overall perception of quality in the minds of consumers. Hyundai is now retracting a claim that it leads the industry with four models that get 40 mpg in highway driving. The estimated highway fuel economy of most 2013 Accent, Veloster and Elantra models will fall to 37 or 38 mpg.

With the adjustments, neither company will market a model that achieves 40 mpg or more on the highway as previously advertised.


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