When the official-looking EPA ratings on the new car in the showroom say the vehicle you're drooling over gets 40 mpg and, after buying it you learn that you're only getting 32... who's to blame? The car manufacturer? The EPA? Yourself?

According to Jim Farley, Ford's global marketing chief, the carmakers that figure out the best ways to help consumers measure their real-world gas mileage could enjoy a competitive advantage. That's what he said last week at the New York Auto Show.

Credibility is king. And increasingly these days, consumers don't know who to believe. Ford recognizes that competing fuel economy claims by manufacturers have overwhelmed and confused consumers and that's why the company is now offering software developers $50,000 in prizes to develop apps that help consumers measure their fuel economy based on actual driving behavior via their mobile devices.

To be perfectly transparent, it's important to note here that Ford has contributed to some of the consumer perception problems it's now attempting to correct.

Autonews.com reported that two of Ford's hybrid models fell 17 percent to 21 percent short of the company's promise of combined city/highway 47 mpg in tests by Consumer Reports, as reported in December. The Ford Fusion Hybrid achieved 39 mpg while the C-Max Hybrid averaged 37 mpg in tests of city and highway driving, the magazine said.

Farley said fuel economy in hybrids seems particularly variable depending on consumers' driving habits.

At the NY Auto Show Farley said: "We're really excited to work with the EPA to find what is the best way for consumers to get fuel economy ratings across all the brands, especially around this issue of behavior. It just seems like hybrids are more sensitive to behavior and conditions" such as temperature and tire pressure.

"We now have a torrent of best-in-class claims hitting consumers from all sides, and it is starting to become noise," Farley said.

"If there's 92 kids in a 100-kid class that are best in class, what does 'best in class' mean anymore? If everyone is saying my car in this subsegment within this segment in the city or on the highway is best in class and everyone is saying that, then the customers are confused."

Maybe consumers might be better served if the mileage claims that appear on vehicles could only be placed there after they are confirmed by a division of independent automotive experts at NHTSA. They exist to protect motorists and are already testing vehicles 24/7... Maybe they should be the ones to determine the accuracy of mileage claims?