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Local automakers react to overstated fuel economy ratings

Hyundai and Kia implement programs to correct errors, compensate owners

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: November 05, 2012 03:00 PM

The Kia Soul will have 6 MPG shaved off its
fuel economy
Two Orange County-based automakers, Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America, are responding to news that 35 percent of 2011-13 model year cars sold through Oct. 31 rolled off dealer lots with overstated fuel economy ratings posted on the sales stickers. Both automakers are putting into place comprehensive programs to correct and replace fuel economy stickers for vehicles currently on lots, and inform owners that they qualify for compensation.

The misreported fuel economy was discovered in an audit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA received a number of consumer complaints from owners of the 2012 Hyundai Elantra, who said their gas mileage did not measure up to the numbers on the window sticker. The EPA included the Elantra on an annual fuel economy audit across the industry.

The two Korean brands, which share a testing center in Korea, account for the discrepancies by pointing to procedural errors at the plant, which led to the incorrect fuel economy ratings on select model lines. The affected models comprise some 900,000 vehicles sold over the past three years and represent the largest case of erroneous test results across a single manufacturer. The scope of the misreporting could draw sanctions from the U.S. government.

"I sincerely apologize to all affected Hyundai and Kia customers, and I regret these errors occurred," said Dr. W. C. Yang, chief technology officer of Hyundai/Kia research and development. "Following up on the EPA's audit results, we have taken immediate action to make the necessary rating changes and process corrections.”

In response to the news, both companies will be replacing the window stickers on all affected models still on dealer lots with labels that have the correct fuel economy rating, which amounts to roughly a three percent slice across the board. Most models will lose 1 to 2 miles off the previously stated MPG. The Kia Soul will lose five to six miles off its earlier sticker MPG.

Both companies are also working to implement compensation programs for owners of affected models. All owners will receive a personalized debit card that will reimburse them in the form of annual payments for the difference in combined EPA fuel economy, local area fuel price and actual miles driven. In addition, payments will include a 15 percent extra payment in acknowledgement of the inconvenience to owners. The reimbursement program is likely to cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Given the importance of fuel efficiency to all of us, we're extremely sorry about these errors," said John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America.  "When we say to Hyundai owners, 'We've got your back,' that's an assurance we don't take lightly. We're going to make this right for everyone, and we'll be more driven than ever to ensure our vehicles deliver outstanding fuel economy."

The EPA requires an extensive suite of tests from auto manufacturers to determine vehicles’ fuel economy, to be conducted at automakers’ own testing facilities. Brands follow EPA procedures, and the agency ensures accuracy by auditing about 15 percent of vehicles every year.

The ‘procedural errors’ that led to the miscalculated MPG ratings were a result of a specific ‘coastdown’ test, which determines a vehicle’s aerodynamic drag, tire rolling resistance and drive train frictional losses. This test provides the technical data used to program the apparatus that is used to determine the final EPA fuel economy ratings.

"As a customer-focused organization, we are fully committed to providing consumers with complete and accurate information, and deeply regret the errors were made," said Byung Mo Ahn, group president and CEO, Kia Motors America and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia.  "Our reimbursement program is intended to ensure that all affected Kia customers quickly receive fair compensation."

Hyundai and Kia have provided complete information about the fuel economy testing, affected model lines, revised MPG, sticker replacements, and reimbursement program at hyundaimpginfo.com and kiampginfo.com.

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