US: Watchdog Group Blasts Ford for Ethanol Loophole

The Ford Motor Company is misleading the public and the government about several of its vehicles that claim to operate on ethanol, according to letters sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by the watchdog group Public Citizen.

The letter to NHTSA alleges that several of Ford's flexible fuel vehicles (FFV) do not qualify for credits against the company's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard - the credits increase the CAFE standard for Ford's entire fleet, allowing it to sell more vehicles with lower gas mileage. FFVs qualify for the credits under the assumption that the vehicles use gasoline 50 percent of time and the ethanol fuel E-85 the other 50 percent. That doesn't happen in reality, according to Public Citizen, which called on the FTC to sanction Ford for deceptive advertising and require the company to correct its current ads for its entire FFV fleet.

The letter complains that Ford claims its model year 2003 to 2005 Taurus and Mercury Sable FFVs qualify for the credits and advertises them as "hassle-free and environmentally sound driving." Public Citizen asserts that Ford is misleading the public in its advertising because E-85 is not widely available and because its Taurus vehicles do not operate properly with the fuel.

It is widely known that few FFVs actually use E-85, which is only available at about 900 of the nation's 176,000 gas stations.

Public Citizen criticizes Ford for advertising FFVs in nine states that have zero fuel stations that sell E-85 and in an additional 12 states that contain five or fewer E-85 fuel stations.

Furthermore, the group asserts that Ford has received numerous complaints from customers that the Taurus and Sable are unable to operate properly on E-85.

"Ford is misleading consumers into thinking they are buying efficient and environmentally friendly cars, while taking advantage of a perverse system that rewards car makers for building vehicles that do just the opposite," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "Ford's flex-fuel vehicle is grossly misnamed; it isn't flexible and doesn't run on alternative fuel."

Public Citizen was alerted to the Taurus defect by David Buss, a Nebraska corn farmer, who purchased a Ford vehicle marketed as a flex-fuel vehicle. Buss also has filed complaints with the FTC and the Nebraska Attorney General, and he has sent Ford a letter demanding a refund for his vehicle. 

AMP Section Name:Environment
  • 107 Energy
  • 204 Manufacturing

Stay Informed