Ford is faced with rebuilding the C-Max Hybrid's sales after volume tanked when the company was forced to lower the vehicle's estimated fuel economy in August.
"Consideration for the product and consideration for the purchase of C-Max declined significantly after August," Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas, said during an interview at the New York auto show. "We need to reinvest in the product because it's a great product."
Ford restated the C-Max's estimated fuel economy to 43 mpg combined (45 mpg city/40 highway) from 47 mpg combined (47 mpg city/47 highway) after lawsuits and complaints from customers who claimed their vehicles failed to achieve the fuel economy listed on the sticker. Ford paid $550 to customers who bought a C-Max and $325 to lease customers.
Sales of the C-Max plunged from 2,411 in August to 1,424 in September and have not fully recovered. Sales were down 49 percent in March from the same month a year earlier and have plunged 54 percent to 3,933 through the first three months.
To boost sales, Ford is offering $1,000 cash or 1.9 percent financing for 60 months on the 2014 C-Max Hybrid. It is offering a larger incentive on leftover 2013 C-Max Hybrids: 0 percent interest for 72 months plus $1,250 or $2,750 in total cash.
Dealers say customers have shown less interest in the C-Max Hybrid since the fuel economy restatement.
Chris Lemley, owner of Sentry Ford-Lincoln in Medford, Mass., says the C-Max Hybrid is getting competition from within Ford's lineup in his showroom.
"The Fusion Hybrid is outselling C-Max -- I bet it's three to one, four to one," he said. "Most people would agree the Fusion is a more substantial vehicle. It's one car class bigger. It tends to be around the same payment."
Ford did not restate the Fusion Hybrid's estimated fuel economy, which is still a combined 47 mpg. Fusion Hybrid sales have dropped just 6 percent for the first three months to 9,606. The total is more than double C-Max sales.