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Hyundai, Kia Admit Overstated MPG Claim, Owners Will Be Reimbursed

Munroney Label

If this label came from a Kia or Hyundai, it may well be lying to you. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

Remember how mad you were when you bought that 40 mpg Hyundai that only managed to get 36 mpg at best? Yeah, Hyundai is admitting it told you a big fat lie.

Sister company Kia Motors also said it misrepresented its highway fuel efficiency claims, according to a Reuters story that broke today.

The story said the two automakers admitted misrepresenting the actual fuel mileage of more than 1 million vehicles by at least one mpg. In some cases, the exaggeration was much more than one mpg. The Kia Soul got an adjusted EPA rating that bumped its highway fuel efficiency figure down six mpg.

In a statement quoted by Reuters, Edmunds.com senior green car editor John O’Dell said, “”The fact that the companies’ ballyhooed 40 mpg cars are no longer members of that august club…will be something that haunts the companies for a long time to come.”

Indeed it will, because Hyundai and Kia will be paying owners of cars produced from the 2011, 2012, and 2013 model years. Owners will be reimbursed based on the difference in mpg ratings, the miles they have driven, and an extra 15% premium “for the inconvenience,” the Reuters report said. A post at AutoGuide today said the reimbursements would continue for as long as the original owner owned the car. Reuters estimated that if all 900,000 U.S. owners of the 900,000 Hyundai and Kia models affected received reimbursement, the program could cost the twin companies nearly $80 million.

Add to that expense the cost of re-printing the fuel efficiency rating stickers for the misrated cars still sitting on dealer lots, and pretty soon, you’re talking about real money.

The Environmental Protection Agency– the folks tasked with oversight of fuel efficiency testing that is sometimes performed by the government, but more often performed by car manufacturers who use government-mandated testing procedures– said they started investigating the fuel efficiency claims of Hyundai and Kia after receiving a number of complaints from owners who failed to achieve the fuel mileage numbers claimed on the cars’ Munroney sticker. Once the Agency noticed a discrepancy between its own independent test of a 2012 Hyundai Elantra and the claimed test results from Hyundai, regulators smelled chum in the water.

Hyundai and Kia, for their part, said procedural errors at their Korean test facilities led to the erroneous ratings.

The Reuters article said that EPA regulators sometimes test up to 200 vehicles a year to double-check manufacturers’ claimed mpg figures. An earlier article by Car and Driver pointed out that of the Agency’s 17,000 employees, just 18 work at the Ann Arbor, MI fuel mileage testing center. The article is a good primer for anyone interested in how vehicles are actually tested for fuel efficiency. Hint: it’s probably not done the way you think it is.

Did you buy a Hyundai or Kia only to be disappointed by the fuel mileage your new car got? Sound off in the comments.

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Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson-- yes, that's his real name-- is a journalist, editor and avid fan of cars and motorcycles. In his spare time between writing/editing for a small-town weekly newspaper and nailing perfect rev-matched downshifts while managing Facebook's Manual Transmission Preservation Society, he freelances at GearHeads.org and anywhere else willing to have him.