The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—better known as EPA, appears to have caught Hyundai Motor Group—maker of Hyundai and Kia automobiles, fudging their gas mileage estimates since 2010. In other words, the Korean cars sip more gas than the new-car window stickers indicate.
"EPA had received a number of consumer complaints about Hyundai mileage estimates. Through the agency's ongoing audit program, staff experts at EPA's [National Vehicle Fuel Economy Laboratory] observed discrepancies between results from EPA testing of a MY2012 Hyundai Elantra and information provided to EPA by Hyundai," the EPA said in a statement.
Hyundai and Kia have now issued incorrect mileage estimates on fuel consumption for about 900,000 vehicles and will be issuing payments to car owners for the cost of the additional gas used during their ownership period. Yep, their giving a gas-refund to owners who thought they should be getting better gas mileage based on the company’s estimates. Customers will receive a debit card that will reimburse them for their difference in the EPA combined fuel economy rating, based on the fuel price in their area and their own actual miles driven.
Hyundai acknowledged its estimates differed from the fuel economy figures produced by the EPA during its investigation. The company apologized and called the erroneous mileage estimates "procedural errors" in its testing.
While the differences between what Hyundai claimed on the mileage estimate, and what the EPA said was more accurate is small (fleetwide fuel economy average will fall to 26 mpg for 2012 models from 27 mpg), the perceptual damage could hurt the company’s reputation.
Hyundai has based much of its recent advertising on claims of 40 mpg on the highway in many of its cars—a claim that no longer appears to be true.
Additional sources: The Wall Street Journal