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
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
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
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
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
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.
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