Cornered by Ford; Toyota Flings a Paroxysm
A feud is simmering between Ford and Toyota over Ford's claim that its Fusion gasoline-electric hybrid out this spring will be the most fuel-efficient midsize car at 41 m.p.g. in town, 36 on the highway.
Freep ArticleToyota says its higher-mileage Prius hybrid (48/45 m.p.g.) also is midsize -- as defined by the U.S. government. U.S. emissions and fuel-economy regulations judge a car's size category by its combined passenger and cargo space.
Fusion has 111.6 cubic feet of combined space; Prius, 110.6. Both are over the federal threshold of 110 for midsize and below the 120 mark for full-size cars.
Fusion is about 800 pounds heavier than Prius, 16 inches longer and 4 inches wider, but the federal regulations don't take those factors into account.
"We are reviewing Ford's mileage claims for Fusion," Toyota Motor Sales spokesman Joe Tetherow says. He notes that the redesigned 2010 Prius, to be unveiled at the Detroit auto show next week, also gets better mileage than the Fusion. The new Prius will be larger than today's, but Toyota hasn't given specifics.
Ford contends the more logical comparisons with the Fusion hybrid are Toyota's Camry hybrid, 33/34 m.p.g., and Nissan's midsize Altima sedan, rated 35/33.
"We've been pretty clear, probably annoyingly clear, to Toyota that we're comparing Fusion to Camry," Ford spokesman Mark Truby says.
The brewing dust-up is significant because it threatens a key point that Ford wants to use to market the car, as well as to improve the company's environmental image. And it signals that auto industry competition is intensifying, as companies fight for slices of an evaporating sales pie.
New vehicle sales in the United States last year fell 18% to 13.2 million, according to Autodata Corp. That's the worst since 12.9 million in 1992.
General Motors and Chrysler have borrowed billions from the federal government just to keep the lights on and doors open. Ford has said it might need to do that.
In that brutal context, every sale will be contested. Ford forecasts selling about 25,000 Fusion hybrids a year, including a few nearly identical Mercury Milan hybrids. Toyota sold about 159,000 Priuses last year.