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Toyota Fights for Title of Most Fuel Efficient Midsized Car

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2009 Ford Fusion

Washington DC January 9, 2009; The AIADA newsletter reported that a feud is simmering over who has the more fuel efficient midsize car.

Ford and Toyota are battling over the title when car sales are at their lowest point since 1992 and this past summer American's moved to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles.

According to a USA Today article, 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. Toyota says its higher-mileage Prius hybrid (48/45 m.p.g.) also is midsize -- as defined by the U.S. government holds the prized title.

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.

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.