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Ford confident its hybrid fuel economy numbers will stand up

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid


Ford's Fusion and C-Max hybrid fuel economy numbers will stand up to government testing, insists Ford of Canada CEO Dianne Craig, though she admits the Transport Canada numbers are extremely optimistic.

But she adds that Ford of Canada is working to harmonize Natural Resources Canada testing standards with those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"We follow exactly to the letter of the law with the EPA on what we need to do, so we're very confident and comfortable with that process, along with [that of] Transport Canada," Craig said in a wide-ranging interview at the Detroit auto show.

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"So if we need to adjust and re-look at the industry and what to do to evaluate EPA [figures], we're happy to be part of that conversation."

The Ford C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid sedan both average 5.0 litres/100 km on the combined EPA cycle, but both feature identical 4.0 city and 4.1 highway figures using the latest 2013 Canadian government testing data.

Various U.S. outlets have run stories featuring Ford hybrid owners complaining of not achieving anywhere near the EPA figures. Consumer Reports also found in its more real-world fuel efficiency tests that both cars had the largest discrepancy between official EPA figures and the ones it achieved in its standardized tests.

The Detroit News reported this week that the EPA is investigating the veracity of Ford's fuel efficiency numbers, after complaints it received from C-Max Hybrid buyers, but noted that these complaints were registered after the CR report came out.

CR later conceded that its test methods are more difficult than the EPA's, testing to 65 mph in its highway cycle versus the EPA's that rarely surpasses 55 mph, though the EPA's briefly hits 80 mph.

The current Canadian two-cycle tests never surpass 97 km/h for most cars, although it has adopted the U.S.-style five-cycle test for current plug-in vehicles, and the government has publicly committed to adopting the more stringent U.S. testing methods.

However, CR found that while the Fords were still among the most fuel efficient hybrids on the road, they fell behind vehicles like the Prius V and Toyota Camry Hybrid, vehicles that Ford had pointedly targeted in its marketing, trumpeting its better fuel efficiency figures. Therefore, owners may be disappointed not to achieve the fuel efficiency figures promised, CR concluded.

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Craig acknowledges that there is more "variability" with hybrids based on conditions and driving style, but said that some Ford customers get better than official EPA figures too.

And she cited strong sales and even an early product shortage for the C-Max in Canada as evidence that Ford buyers are excited about the C-Max and Fusion not just for its fuel economy numbers, but style and other factors as well.

Redesigned Toyota RAV4 on sale next month

The new-generation 2013 Toyota RAV4 will have its Canadian debut this week at the Montreal auto show, and go on sale in February, but Toyota Canada's CEO said the EV version of the current RAV4 now offered in the United States would be too expensive for Canada.

"Canadian consumers are enviro-conscious, but they're also very smart," Toyota Canada president and CEO Seiji Ichii said in an interview this week at the Detroit auto show.

The Ontario-built RAV4 EVs starts at $49,800 (U.S.), or $38,800 after government incentives in California, its main market. But with no national EV incentive here, plus no law requiring them as in California and some other states, the cost here would likely be even higher.

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Toyota confirmed that it will bring 21 new or redesigned regular gas-electric hybrids to market by 2015, and eventually the company wants a full hybrid lineup, though the 2020 timetable originally discussed for that may or may not have changed with increasingly stringent fuel efficiency mandates globally.

So the chances of a RAV4 hybrid as part of these 21 models in the next few years seems more likely, though Ichii didn't discuss this.

The '13 RAV4 starts at $23,790 for a base front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder LE, on up to a starting price of $31,700 for the AWD Limited model.

No V-6 engine will be available; nor will there be a seven-seat version, although Toyota suggests a turbo four may arrive later.

The 2014 Lexus IS will make its Canadian debut at the Montreal show, which opens to the public on Friday, just days after its global unveiling at the Detroit show on Tuesday.

It will offer a totally redesigned body and larger interior, and rear or all-wheel-drive versions of either the IS 250, IS 350 or slightly sportier F-Sport models.

Mercedes CLA four-door 'coupe' to arrive this fall

The Mercedes-Benz CLA unofficially crashed the Detroit auto show party, the company previewing the car on the evening when much of the world was watching the latest Corvette unveiling.

But after that, it made its way to Cobo Hall, hidden just off the floor of the Detroit show, so that Mercedes-Benz can still claim its public unveiling elsewhere.

When the CLA 250 arrives in the fall, powered by the same 208-hp, turbocharged four in the new B-Class, it'll be the first front-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz model in the United States and the brand's entry-level model. Exact prices aren't available yet, as it's set to arrive in dealers in September, but a Mercedes Canada rep said it will start between the $30,000 B-Class and $35,000 C-Class.

The CLA 45 AMG version is set to arrive a couple months later in November, with a rumoured 335 or so ponies, and will come with 4Matic all-wheel-drive as standard equipment.

Before then, the revised 2014 E-Class sedan and wagon are scheduled to arrive in April, while high-performance AMG counterparts for both are on tap for August, says Mercedes-Benz.

Perhaps strangely, no AMG versions are planned for either E-Class two-door, either coupe or convertible.

Meanwhile, the blocky G-Class off-roader lives on in lowered and hotted-up AMG form.

Honda world premiere planned for Montreal

It's not often that any Canadian auto show features a world premiere, but that's what's happening this week in Montreal, when Honda will unveil its youthful Gear concept.

Few details were released in advance about the hatchback design study, but it's not meant to be a precursor to an actual production car, a Honda Canada executive said.

Honda's brief preview statement about it says that it's a customizable subcompact car aimed at younger drivers, and inspired by fixed-gear bicycles: simple and utilitarian, but also fun-to-drive for gadget-craving Gen-Y consumers.

A design sketch indicates a small hatchback with huge wheels stuck far out in its corners, with the real car to be unveiled at the Montreal auto show's media preview day on Thursday.

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