Two Pennsylvania consumers are suing Ford on behalf of tens of thousands of new car buyers who allegedly were misled into buying hybrid vehicles they later learned were much less efficient than advertised.
William Huff, Charles and Lori Zafonte, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, filed a class action complaint against Ford Motor Company on April 23 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Aware of the need to offer consumers better fuel economy in order to remain competitive, according to the lawsuit, Ford Motor Company has declared its intention to become "America's most fuel-efficient auto manufacturer." To help reach this goal, Ford released the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Ford C-Max, both of which Ford allegedly claims achieve a fuel economy rating of 47 miles per gallon.
Huff and the Zafontes say they are among tens of thousands of customers who purchased a Ford Fusion Hybrid or C-Max Hybrid believing it to be "America's most fuel-efficient midsize sedan," as indicated in literature distributed by Ford. The plaintiffs say promotional brochures created by Ford to advertise these hybrid vehicles tout a fuel economy double that of the average vehicle.
In December 2012 Consumer Reports announced that its testing showed the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid provided significantly worse fuel economy than what Ford had stated in advertisements and on window stickers required by the Environmental Protection Agency on new vehicles being sold, the complaint says. Consumer Reports allegedly showed the vehicles to achieve 37 to 39 miles per gallon -- as much as 12 miles per gallon less than advertised.
Huff and the Zafontes say other independent testing routinely shows the vehicles failing to break the 40 mile per gallon threshold. They claim Ford's inaccurate fuel economy representations mean consumers did not receive what they were promised and, therefore, purchased a car less valuable and more costly to drive than the manufacturer represented.
The plaintiffs contend Ford's alleged overstatement of facts had the desired effect: record-setting sales of the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid vehicles. They say the company knew or should have known it was using false information to drive those sales.
Huff and the Zafontes have brought this action on behalf and themselves and anyone who purchased or leased a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid or 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid in Pennsylvania. They accuse Ford of violating Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law for allegedly misrepresenting the vehicles as having benefits they do not have and as complying with a specific standard they do not meet.
Ford is also accused of unjust enrichment and fraud for allegedly making "false representations and untrue statements...recklessly and without regard to truth." Huff and the Zafontes contend those statements caused consumers to buy a vehicle they otherwise would not have purchased. They say they overpaid for the vehicles they received and were forced to pay more for fuel than expected because of the lower fuel economy.
The plaintiffs are asking actual, compensatory and punitive damages be awarded to members of the Class. They request restitution equal to all money paid to Ford as a result of the alleged deceptive business practices. They are also demanding an order enjoining Ford from continuing unlawful conduct.
Attorneys Scott Alan George, of Philadelphia, and David Stein, Eric H. Gibbs, Geoffrey A. Munroe and Scott Grzenczyk, all of San Francisco, represent the Class. They demand a jury trial.
US District Court Case No. 5:13-cv-02168-JKG