November 2, 2012 - Hyundai Motors America and Kia Motors America have had to send out a brand new batch of window stickers for 6 models (3 each) because they apparently overestimated the MPG on about 900,000 cars. Oops! The Hyundai Accent, Veloster, and Elantra all touted 40MPG, along with their Kia counterparts (Hyundai owns Kia), but research by the EPA found this number to be slightly inflated—these models actually got 37 to 38mpg. The error was caught relatively early, so the companies began quietly sending out new window stickers. Now that the news has spread, Hyundai has a full blown PR nightmare on its hands.
When I read about mistakes like this, I have to wonder: Did Hyundai know that they were advertising dishonestly? I’m pretty sure they do the same tests at the Hyundai factory that the EPA does, so why did they come up with different numbers? On the flipside, Hyundai had to know that they were going to be tested by the EPA so what would their incentive to lie be? If they were trying to pull one over on us, they had to know they would eventually get caught and receive a multitude of bad press and eventually lawsuits! Then there is the possibility that this was all just an honest (and by honest I mean costly) mistake. Oh man—what a crazy confusing world we live in! Will we ever know the truth?
A difference of 3mpg may not seem like a huge deal, but the reason this is such a pertinent issue is because Hyundai claimed in its advertising campaigns to be the number one producer of 40mpg cars. After the EPA adjustment, they can no longer claim that title. Also, according to Jalopnik, this “more than doubles the number of vehicles the EPA has had to downgrade since 2000.” Whoa! There have been less than 6 cars to have their MPG rating downgraded in the last 12 years? That makes it seem a whole lot worse doesn’t it?
In an attempt to remedy the issue, the companies are offering people who bought one of these models a reimbursement for the difference between the advertised rating and the true rating. The reimbursement will be about $100 for every 15,000 for the life of the car. Economically, the reimbursement is fair. Hyundai and Kia are giving their customers back the money they would have saved had the cars actually driven at 40mpg. But remember this is America, the land of class action lawsuits, so I wouldn’t expect this to go away anytime soon. Hyundai and Kia could end up paying dearly for their error.