Ford Reaches $19.2 Million Settlement Over Claims Of Bullshit Advertising

Morning Dump Ford Cmax

Ford finalizes a settlement over claims of false advertising, Stellantis reportedly reaches a diesel emissions plea deal, GM customers get hacked. All this and more on today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Ford To Pay $19.2M Settlement For False Advertising Allegations

14cmax Hybrid Hero Cutaway
Photo credit: Ford

Back in the early 2010s, Ford adopted an interesting strategy to sell more Super Duty pickup trucks and C-Max electrified compact MPVs – seemingly, it was to just manipulate some numbers. I’m not entirely sure what the C-Max’s fuel economy figures were based on, but it seems almost ethereal. USA Today reports that in August 2013, Ford lowered its advertised fuel economy figures for the C-Max Hybrid from 47 mpg city, highway, and combined to 45 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, and 43 mpg combined. Since then, the EPA has further revised fuel economy figures to 42 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined. That’s a big difference from 47 all-round. New Jersey’s Attorney General Matthew Platkin’s office describes the issue further in a statement:

At one point, Ford ran a series of advertisements called the “Hybrid Games.” The commercials were narrated like an Olympic sporting event and depicted the Ford C-Max outperforming the Toyota Prius in a series of videos.

New Jersey and the other participating states allege that those videos deceptively implied that C-Max vehicles offered superior real-world fuel economy and driving performance, which was not the case.

On two occasions, Ford actually had to scale back its 2013 C-Max vehicles’ fuel economy ratings, which were initially touted as 47 mpg in the city and highway, but eventually had to be lowered to 42 mpg/city, 37 mpg/highway, and 40 mpg/city-highway mixed. The settlement announced today corrects Ford’s deceptive practices and, going forward, will help ensure that Ford does not make similar false or misleading advertising claims in the future.

So what about the Super Duty? Well, payload capacity – the amount of crap you can put in the bed – really matters to three-quarter ton and one-ton pickup truck buyers. Platkin’s statement says Ford ditched the spare tire, got rid of the radio, removed the center console, and junked the jack to just edge out the competition on payload. The trouble is, the payload figure wasn’t representative of trucks purchased by customers. From the New Jersey Attorney General’s office:

In the world of pickup-truck advertising, a designation as “Best-in-Class” payload is a coveted title, and the Attorneys General allege that Ford used a deceptive methodology for reclaiming it after other trucks had surpassed Ford in the previous model year.

In calculating the maximum payload capacity of its vehicles, the investigation found, Ford employed a truck configuration it did not actually intend to sell to individual buyers – one that omitted such standard items as the spare wheel, tire and jack, radio, and center console (which was replaced by a mini-console).

Using this “content deleted” truck configuration as a reference, Ford was able to add additional pounds to the maximum advertisable payload capacity of its Super Duty truck — just enough for Ford to reclaim the title of “Best-in-Class” for payload. Ford only used this deceptive calculation for advertising purposes, the Attorneys General found, and did not use it for calculating the actual payload capacity of individual Super Duty trucks earmarked for sale to consumers.

Needless to say, C-Max and Super Duty owners weren’t happy, and neither were consumer watchdogs. In a statement issued Tuesday, New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Cari Fais said, “Deceiving consumers about fuel economy estimates and truck hauling capacity not only lacks integrity — it is illegal. Now more than ever, consumers are harmed when auto makers ignore their duty to be truthful about the fuel economy and other key features of the vehicles they manufacture.” While some C-Max owners did get $500 in compensation after the initial fuel economy figure change, things still seemed fishy.

Fast forward the better part of a decade after the incident, and a massive multi-state settlement landed on Tuesday. Now I want to make it perfectly clear that a settlement isn’t actually a win for the Attorneys General or a legal admission of the defendant’s wrongdoing. However, owners might be able to breath a little easier knowing that Ford is paying up $19.2 million. This sum will be distributed to Attorneys General in 40 states and the District of Columbia. We reached out to Ford for an official statement, and the Dearborn-based manufacturer responded by saying: “We are pleased that the matter is closed without any judicial finding of improper conduct. We worked with the states to resolve their concerns and in the process limited additional investigative costs and legal expenses for all parties.”

[Editor’s Note: The idea of basing a “best in class” claim on a severely-decontented truck is really nothing new, but it is a bit of a slimy tactic (used by many automakers), and it’d be nice if there were standards in place that required the truck to be somewhat representative of a higher-volume build. I’m not exactly sure if there’s anyone regulating “best in class” claims at the moment, but there probably should be based on this settlement. As for the C-Max fuel economy claim, Green Car Reports’ story on the matter indicates that this seems like an issue with the U.S.’s federal fuel economy rating process. Basically, this settlement appears to be a case of an automaker saying “TECHNICALLY we can get away with this,” without really paying too much attention to whether the end-user is going to get what they might reasonably expect based on advertising. Lots of automakers do this, but they should probably be more careful about it moving forward. -DT]

Stellantis Reportedly Makes A Plea Deal Over Emissions

Jp014 158gc
Photo credit: Jeep

The timeline of diesel emissions scandals is as long as it is diverse, although things may now be finally wrapping up for Stellantis. The company is accused of using defeat devices on light-duty diesel vehicles, and has now reportedly reached a plea deal with the U.S. Justice Department.

According to Reuters, Stellantis’ FCA U.S. arm has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge and pay around $300 million in fines stemming from its alleged emissions cheating on EcoDiesel-equipped Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram 1500s. Reuters also claims that the full plea deal is expected to be officially announced as soon as next week, although that timing isn’t exactly concrete. If $300 millions sounds like a slap on the wrist, you’re likely right. While FCA U.S. only sold roughly one sixth of the number of cheating vehicles that Volkswagen did, $300 million times six works out to $1.8 billion, a far cry from the $2.8 billion in criminal fine and $1.5 billion in civil penalties that Volkswagen paid. Needless to say, we’ll keep you updated with further developments in this case.

Hyundai Recalls 281,000 Vehicles For Unsafety Belts

Large 46445 2022elantra
Photo credit: Hyundai

Seat belt pretensioners are pretty awesome. Upon impact, a tiny pyrotechnic charge goes off, cinching the seat belt and preventing excess occupant movement. They’re cheap, effective, and a wonderful passive safety feature to have. That is, of course, if your seat belt pretensioner weren’t an instrument of violence, potentially spewing shrapnel about the cabin in the event of deployment.

Things that blast shrapnel are typically labeled “Front towards enemy,” although I could see a basic argument if the driver is jamming out to Lit’s My Own Worst Enemy. However, I doubt that 281,000 late-model Hyundai owners all share a vibe of self-loathing. The breakdown goes like this – Hyundai Motor America has recalled 61,000 2019 to 2022 Accents, 166,000 2021 to 2023 Elantras, and 12,000 2021 to 2022 Elantra Hybrids for potential abnormal pretensioner deployment. Add in 42,000 small sedans that made their way to Canada, and you end up with 281,000 vehicles. The fix is really quite simple, a special cap over each pretensioner’s micro gas generator and delivery pipe, and owners should be notified of this fix starting July 15.

The Ford Bronco Raptor Posts Up Some Horsepower Gains

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor 15
Photo credit: Ford

Look, we always new that the Ford Bronco Raptor would post some solid power numbers because that’s what Fords named after two animals do. Mustang Cobra, Bronco Raptor. See a pattern? The three-liter Ecoboost turbo V6 cranks out 400 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque in the Lincoln Aviator, but the Bronco Raptor has been hitting the gym to post some minor but useful gains. Ford CEO Jim Farley took to Twitter to announce the final numbers, and we’re staring down the barrel of 418 horsepower and 440 lb.-ft. of torque.

So where does that stand in the grand scheme of things? Well, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 cranks out 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque which is undeniably more than what the Bronco Raptor makes. However, more isn’t always more. Let me explain. The Wrangler Rubicon 392’s peak torque hits at a fairly peaky 4,300 RPM. While Jeep claims 75 percent of torque is available just off-idle, a dyno graph posted by JL Wrangler Forums user aus-jeep seems to show a slow climb to peak torque. Assuming the Bronco Raptor doesn’t move the 3.0 V6’s torque peak much past the Aviator’s torque peak of 3,000 RPM, these two might be more matched in low-end torque than it seems. We can’t wait for someone to get the Bronco Raptor on a chassis dyno and plot power and torque curves to see where the peaks fall.

GM Customers Get Hacked

2022 Buick Encore Gx
Photo credit: Buick

Another lovely day in the land of brand rewards programs. Look, I get that the internet is a great way to communicate and learn, but does every manufacturer need an internet-based aftersales rewards program? They’re kinda creepy, weirdly simp-ish, and raise some concerns about cybersecurity. Concerns that I don’t doubt certain General Motors owners will be raising very shortly.

According to Automotive News, GM saw some suspicious login attempts between April 11 and April 29, during which some hackers were able to redeem points for gift cards. I’m sorry, what would they have spent these points on? Are chrome mirror caps that desirable on the black market? More concerning, personal information is confirmed to have been compromised. While social security numbers are said to be safe, other personal information including addresses and phone numbers reportedly aren’t. Also concerning? Bleeping Computer reports that hackers were able to view search and destination information – a snapshot of where each vehicle has been. While it’s reported that hackers grabbed leaked credentials from other websites, that’s still no excuse for not forcing two-factor authentication. Everything should have it these days, yet GM’s rewards site doesn’t even offer it as an option. Oh dear. GM’s currently reaching out to owners, although the automaker doesn’t know how many owners are truly affected.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Congratulations, we’ve all made it to the middle of the week. To celebrate, I’d love to know something cool about your daily driver. For instance, my 3-Series uses a composite aluminum and magnesium engine block. Pretty wild stuff considering it isn’t even the fast one. Maybe your daily driver is gadget-laden, maybe it’s very light, maybe it has some crazy material use going on, maybe it has an awesome Easter Egg. Whatever the case, I’d love to hear something special about your everyday transportation.

Lead photo credit: Ford

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50 Responses

  1. I drive a 2013 Kia Sorento. Nothing interesting about it at all. Except… Last year a funny noise in the front right wheel and an ABS light that indicated an out of spec reading between the rear wheels led me to replace all four wheel hubs at 140k miles.
    Not much interesting there; except, I bought them from China via eBay and didn’t heed multiple forum suggestions to add a considerable amount of grease as the factories rarely pack them well. It’s been 16k miles with no problems, but everytime I take a particularly exuberant corner, a thought comes to mind.
    I wonder how healthy those hubs are?

  2. The only remotely interesting thing I can think of about my daily driver – a 1995 Toyota Corolla that isn’t even a DX – is that the 4A-FE uses dual overhead cams that rotate in opposite directions. The exhaust cam is belt-driven off the crank, and the intake cam is gear-driven off the exhaust cam.

    Also, it can’t decide what non-color it wants to be. Park it next to a silver car and it looks tan; park it next to a beige or brown car and suddenly it’s gray. Either way, it’s not an attractive color.

    1. Oh, and I bought it for $500 two years ago, and by rough back-of-the-envelope calculation, it has cost me about 40 cents a mile so far, all-in. Purchase, repairs, maintenance, gas, insurance, everything.

  3. Umm.. most days I drive my work-provided Ram 2500… it’s got the Cummins in it? That’s not very interesting.

    Of my own cars I have an ‘08 Mustang that’s got a bunch of bolt-on stuff including an alternator from a 2010 because it’s a known upgrade… still not interesting.

    My tinkering project is a ‘73 D100 Club Cab.. the first year any manufacturer offered what would now be called an Extended Cab! Now that’s interesting!

  4. My daily driver (2019 Kia Niro) isn’t anything cool, but it gets great gas mileage despite my lead foot. And I hit a deer with it yesterday. Body shop says they can’t get it in until July. So that’s fun, driving with cracked grill, misaligned bumper cover, and slightly bent hood. It’d been in fantastic shape before, too.

    1. I have an older Niro PHEV and it’s been a lovely car. Averages a solid 50 mpg in hybrid mode (when electric isn’t enough), practical, comfortable, handles well for a heavy car on eco tires. Shame about the deer.

  5. Something interesting about my DD. Let’s see…

    As far as I can tell, it has appreciated over 40% in retail value since I bought it in the summer of 2020. This is after I got a Carvana offer in 2021 to buy it for $3,000 more than I had paid the year before.

    Michigan’s shitty roads have eaten two of my tires since February. So I now have 2 tires with 10,000 miles on them and 2 with less than 1,000 miles. Thank you Michigan Legislature!

  6. I love these AG State Attorneys lawsuits. Millions to billions to state coifers and nothing to the affected consumers. Yeah these aren’t going anywhere. And 2nd government scheme manufacturers can’t lie on fuel economy but the government can bestow increased fuel economy standards on vehicles for bogus reasons. Hey just tell me what I get between vehicles on a standard test.

    1. I dunno Dave, this seems like an awfully political post. Opinions on fuel economy standards, complaints about state AGs and funding… Are you sure this is acceptable or are you contributing to the inevitable rise of COMMUNISM.

  7. I may be out of line here, but after driving many, many MANY cars and checking fuel mileage on more than a few, I have rarely, if ever, seen any reliable correlation between the EPA figures and Real World fuel economy. Some have done better, many more did worse.

    So “America’s Economy Champ!” has no meaning to me. Neither, of course, does “Best in Class.” I’d put more credence in J.D. Power awards, though not much.

    And one of the reasons that my preference for older cars remains strong is a desire to have exactly zero connection (so to speak) between my ride and the Internet. No “over-the-air updates,” no pay-us-to-use-the-options-you-already-paid-for, no “rewards” programs I have to log in for. If you ask me, balancing and adjusting a pair of SU carbs is worlds easier than coping with a hack….

    1. Your mileage may vary (heh) from what the EPA gets. But at least the test is consistent for every car, so comparisons are valid…except for the Ford C-Max, which is why such a big stunk was made.

      The GreenCarReports article which David links in the article gets into it a bit, but here’s the tl;dr: if two vehicles have identical drivetrain and curb weights, they’re considered the same by the EPA. Which makes sense when we’re talking about different trims of the same car.

      But here’s what Ford did: they stuffed the Fusion Hybrid’s drivetrain into an aerodynamically lumpy wagon body that happened to occupy the same EPA weight class as the Fusion Hybrid. So our lumpy C-Max friend here gets to claim the much slipperier Fusion Hybrid’s fuel economy to the EPA without any actual testing, since they’re essentially the same vehicle in the EPA’s eyes.

      To preempt the argument that Ford shouldn’t be getting sued over the EPA’s vague legislation: I don’t believe for a second that not a single Ford testing or compliance engineer raised a red flag to management that it was, at best, disingenuous to use the Fusion Hybrid’s fuel economy for official ratings and advertising.

    2. My daily driver happens to be the opposite. I get higher than expected fuel economy than EPA ratings. My current rental though is way below what EPA rating is, as expected with any Ecoboost product.

    3. And Ford’s EcoBoosts are big offenders. I had a series of EB Escapes as company vehicles, and, over about 120,000 miles of driving in 4 years, never averaged much more than 23-24mpg from a tank, and that’s from a compact crossover, with a small 4-cylinder, auto start/stop, low resistance tires, and 6 gears, basically all the fuel economy trucks Ford had in their bag to throw at it.

      During much of that time, I owned a Lincoln Town Car that routinely averaged 22mpg, the fact that the tiny and more modern Escape was only just barely more efficient in real world use always seemed crazy to me

      1. The softening of the Escape was kind of mind-boggling. They took a boxy Jeep-alike and turned it into a lifted Focus, yet somehow the fuel economy got no better. The Fuelly averages up until 2020 (when apparently they reintroduced the hybrid) are almost identical for the past ~15 years.

  8. The payload games with trucks are annoying. Even more so with half-tons than larger trucks really, since the options make a bigger dent in the total. F150 is the worst offender there too, but the rest aren’t much better. Brochure payload: 3250lbs. Actual payload, typically 1300-1700lbs or so. Silverado and RAM claim somewhat lower numbers like 2200lbs since they don’t have an equivalent of the Heavy Duty Payload Package, but the end result’s still around 1300-1700. Gets people into a lot of trouble with travel trailers, especially the “half-ton towable” 5th wheels.

  9. I daily drive a 95 subaru impreza with a built jdm engine swap.

    The interesting thing is it has a roof vent, powerfolding mirrors, power adjusting headlights, intercooler sprayer and heated mirrors. All installed by me cause if there was an option I want it ha.

  10. My DD is a 2022 Volvo S60 T8 Recharge. One interesting thing might be that it has a supercharged, turbocharged, and plug-in hybrid (can go about 25 mi. on electric-only) powertrain. So that’s pretty neat, although I’m not sure I would want to own one out of warranty.

    Another interesting thing is that I work at one of the plants where Volvo builds S60s (Volvo Cars Charleston), including the model that I have. My car, however, is from the little-known Volvo Cars Malaysia plant. I only discovered this due to the VIN starting with a 7 (which designates it as being built in Oceania, and I suppose that includes Malaysia?).

    I wonder if there is any discernable difference in quality between the two plants?

  11. last year i moved cross country to a job that i just ride my bike to… so i no longer daily drive, which is surprisingly pleasant. but if i do drive for mundane reasons, it’s usually my 240 wagon, which has pizza-delivery warmers as replacement seat heaters.. which is quite the opposite of cool. oh, wait! my wagon has footwell vents! those are VERY cool, right onto your crotch.

  12. My Ford E450 with the 7.3 Powerstroke diesel uses OIL to push diesel fuel through the fuel injector. Designed by CAT, and called the HEUI system – the 7.3 PSD takes your motor oil and pumps it to 3000+ psi (!)

    International designed the 7.3 Powerstroke and Ford used it in many of their products that needed low end grunt. As mentioned the High Pressure Oil Pump (HPOP) pressurized the motor oil and an electronic solenoid hammers a plunger that releases the oil that sits over the low pressure fuel in the bottom of the injector. The force is multiplied due the the reservoir (inside the injector) for the oil being much larger than the amount of fuel in the bottom of the injector.

    Stupid reliable system, the HPOP is not sensitive to low sulfur diesel (although other components such as orings can be), fairly easy to fix.

  13. Even the new lower mpg figures are still really good for something like the C-Max that has lots of space inside. They were very successful as taxis, too.

    Built Ford Tough is false advertising too LOL

  14. Trivia, huh? My daily driver has been in the shop since the first of fucking August, 2021. Because I have been waiting on a stupid, stamped steel part. That is guaranteed to fail on every one of these. Even in ‘rust free’ climates. Which means – you guessed it – no good junkyard parts either.
    The current ETA is now October 2022. But it might actually be October 2023.

  15. My Cruze Eco is simultaneously the most fuel efficient and fastest to 60 out of the first gen Cruze lineup. Forged lightweight wheels, manual, silly short gears 1-3, a stupid tall 6th gear, lowered 10mm from the factory, factory lightened and lots of underbody aero panels. Of course not many were sold.

  16. Something cool about my daily doesn’t quite work as I don’t have a daily currently (I sold my 2004 Honda Civic a couple years ago to help pay for college). The vehicle I use most often is my moms 2005 Camry (base spec) and the “cool” thing is it’s one owner with 290k miles.

    The second most used is the family pickup, a ’98 F150, and I guess the cool/worrying thing about it is it has 104k on the odometer, with 89k of it put on in the first 2 years of its life (originally used for a small business). It also was the vehicle I learned to drive manual with and also the first one I (unintentionally) put into a slide (black ice on a banked left corner). I guess in terms of actually being interesting it has the ability to turn off the airbag with the key (pretty trivial) and the bed cap is from an ’80s F150 and is currently held on with 4 C-clamps (more dangerous than cool).

  17. You already know all about my 330i manual E90, so let me chat about my golf cart. I have a 2014 Club Car precedent, and the stock ERIC charger can be programed for different models of batteries, including a profile for the homebuilt lithium pack I’ve made. That one is LFP, but I have another pack I’m finishing making from recovered cells out of powertools (it won’t be able to use the stock charger, but free batteries!).

  18. It’s raining today, so the Fleetwood Brougham remains garaged. I drove the Spark, and one unique detail I learned about it earlier this year is that there is no adjustment for the AC belt. It’s a stretch-fit deal and of course there’s a special GM-sanctioned tool (available from RockAuto) to help. I figure this cost-saving measure will spread to internal timing-belts before too long.

  19. My Volvo has a tiny spotlight in the overhead console that shines on the gearshift. This despite the PRNDL labels being backlit. Apparently there is a regulatory requirement in some country that the gear shift lever itself must be lit.

  20. It’s my weekend driver, Virgil, a 1932 Chevrolet Confederate. This was to my knowledge the only year that Chevrolet offered “Free Wheeling” (with a giant knob) on its passenger vehicles. Don’t use it. Love my long weekend drives, up and down our unpaved county roads. Sunday afternoon spent cleaning all the dust and mud off. FWIW, Virgil is beautifully restored.

    1. My daily driver also has freewheeling but, inasmuch as the car is a two-stroke SAAB 96, I regularly use it so as to avoid the severely damaging effects of insufficiently lubricated engine braking.

      I believe Chevrolet also offered this option in 1933.

  21. Prius facts:

    There’s a “secret” drawer under the cupholders in a gen 2 that, anecdotally, about half of the owners don’t even know is there.

    The transmission is simultaneously dead simple and mind-blowing:

    If you have a problem and don’t have a code reader handy, you can jump two wires in the OBDII port and the dash will blink error codes at you using the idiot lights.

    Y’all already covered the coolant thermos so I guess that doesn’t count. 😛

    The serpentine belt runs exactly one accessory: the water pump. Everything else is electric (I believe on gen 3+ there is no serpentine belt and everything is electric).

    That’s all I got off the top of my head, but these cars are full of cool little details so I’m sure there are more.

  22. My 2020 BMW 330i was literally the last to be purchased with the factory CD player. I had to special order both it AND the pre-wiring option. Before the model year was out they stopped offering even the pre-wiring as an option, so later buyers couldn’t even retrofit it if they wanted (without rewiring the entire car!).

  23. My DD (Polestar 2) tells you the keyfob is not detected and the car doesnt start when a door is slightly ajar/open, the first time it happened I even changed batteries on the remote. Now that I see that message I just ask my passengers to close the damn door lol

  24. My “DD” (I take the train to work) has been at the mechanic’s for a week, as we are trying to convert it to R134 a/c, using the compressor, condenser, and various other parts from a 1995 Honda Today and a 1997 Honda Life. He must have ran into a complication of some sort because I haven’t heard a peep since Thursday, but at least it is safe from vandals at the garage, unlike in front of my house.
    Why does a small or unusual car always get vandalized first? Is it just because no one street parks any Porsches in my area?

  25. If sold new today, my daily driver’s rated horsepower would rank 235th out of 237 unique passenger vehicle models sold in America! And I’m moving up to second-to-last at the end of the year when the Chevy Spark dies off!

    People sometimes assume, based on looks and the (stock) engine note, that my Miata is a gas guzzler. That horsepower fact, and the 33mpg I average, quickly dissuade them of that notion.

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