DEARBORN (WWJ) — Ford Motor Co. said late Thursday it would cut its gas mileage claims on its C-Max Hybrid and will write “goodwill” checks to current C-Max Hybrid owners and leaseholders to make up for earlier claims.

Ford said the original 47 mpg claim in city and highway driving for C-Max Hybrid was done under current EPA testing rules. But based on real-world driver complaints, and after further testing, Ford is cutting the mileage label claim on its 2013 C-Max Hybrid to 43 mpg.

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As for the refunds, those who bought a 2013 C-Max Hybrid will get a check for $550. Those who leased one will get a check for $325. In a press release, Ford said the payment represents “the estimated average fuel cost of the difference” between the two mpg levels.

“The variability of on-road fuel economy is greater for hybrids than for conventional vehicles,” Ford said in a press release. “Relatively small differences in driver behavior and driving conditions can have a significant effect on the degree to which a hybrid’s gasoline engine is used for propulsion, which affects fuel efficiency.”

Ford said that previously, “consistent with EPA’s General Label rules. testing of the Fusion Hybrid was used to generate fuel economy labels for a family of vehicles, including both Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid. The result was the same fuel economy label values for both vehicles. While the company could continue to use EPA’s General Label for C-Max Hybrid, Ford voluntarily has decided to test and label C-Max Hybrid separately going forward. The result will be a lower miles-per-gallon label for the 2013 C-Max Hybrid.”

Regardless of the mileage controversy, Ford said demand for the C-Max Hybrid “remains very strong, with two-thirds of buyers from imports.”

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And Ford noted that its new mileage claim will still beat the 42 mpg claimed by the Toyota Prius v, the vehicle closest in size among the competition.

Ford also said it is upgrading the 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid, which will go on sale in December. The changes include:
* Gearing changes that result in a more efficient transmission drive ratio
* New hood seal, front and rear tire deflectors, A-pillar moldings and the addition of rear lift gate deflectors to improve vehicle aerodynamics
* New engine oil with reduced friction

Testing to generate an EPA mileage label for the 2014 C-Max Hybrid is not yet complete, Ford said.

“Ford is absolutely committed to being a leader in the hybrid market and to top fuel efficiency across our lineup,” Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, global product development, said in a statement. “We are taking actions with our popular C-MAX Hybrid so that customers are even more satisfied with the vehicle’s on-road fuel efficiency performance.”

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Existing customers will be notified by mail, and Ford said it is working with dealers to re-label vehicles on dealer lots. Customers with questions can contact the Ford Customer Relationship Center at, or (800) 392-3673.