Since Ford was forced to restate the estimated fuel economy of its C-Max Hybrid -- first in August 2013 and again in June -- the brand's marketers have rethought how to sell their hybrid-only nameplate.
The solution: Downplay the mpg numbers that had been so central to the vehicle's launch in 2012, when Ford claimed 47 mpg city/47 highway/47 combined.
What's left is a message that the C-Max is versatile, filled with technology and fun to drive, a veiled shot at the Toyota Prius, the top-selling hybrid.
A recent double-page spread in The Week magazine typifies the tone. The C-Max is pictured on a road by a beach with words floating in the air above the vehicle: "A long straight road nicknamed 'Woo-hoo'," "A hairpin turn that makes your hair stand up straight," "Your dog's head at the window with a smile that's bigger than Alaska."
The tag line summarizes the new approach: "A fun-to-drive hybrid does exist." There is no mention of fuel economy.
"What we're finding is that, although fuel economy is still important, people don't want to sacrifice real-car feel," says Joe Marini, Ford electrified vehicle consumer marketing manager. "We're pushing more on that maximum horsepower. We're also looking to speak to maximum technology."
Ford still hopes to make Prius intenders think twice, even though the C-Max can no longer brag about better fuel economy. The Prius claims higher estimated mpg: 51 city/48 highway compared with the C-Max's 42 city/37 highway.
But Ford brags that the C-Max gets 188 hp. The Prius is rated at 134 hp.
On June 12, Ford cut $1,000 off the price of the C-Max SE and $1,285 off the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.