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Consumer Watchdog today called upon leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees to hold hearings into the revelation by the EPA that for the first time in American history large numbers of vehicles carried window stickers with false MPG claims.

The nonprofit consumer group wrote the EPA one year ago calling for retesting of the Hyundai Elantra after Hyundai’s self-tested MPG estimates were far different than many consumers’ experiences.  Earlier this month, just prior to the presidential election, the EPA announced it had revised MPG claims and window stickers on many Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Consumer Watchdog today asked Congressional leaders to delve into whether the misstated mileage estimates were a direct result of a marketing strategy by Hyundai to advertise four of its vehicles, including the Elantra, as “40 Miles Per Gallon” cars.

“Americans deserve to know the whole truth when the fuel economy claims of a large number of vehicles have been misstated by one of the world’s largest automakers for the first time in American history,” wrote Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court to Senators Jay Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchison of the Senate Commerce Committee and Representatives Fred Upton and Henry Waxman of the House Commerce Committee.

The letter requests that the companies’ chief executive officers be called to testify under oath and that relevant documents be subpoenaed.

The letter, which can be downloaded here, continues:

“One year ago, in response to consumer complaints, Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing concerns about the fuel economy MPG (miles per gallon) estimates advertised on the EPA window sticker of the Hyundai Elantra and requesting that the EPA re-test the Elantra.  In January 2012, after it appeared that the EPA would not perform the testing, Consumer Watchdog then called upon the White House to direct the EPA to conduct such an audit.  Earlier this month, on the Friday before the presidential election, the EPA issued a brief press release announcing that it had required Hyundai and Kia to lower MPG estimates and change the window stickers for the Elantra and 'for the majority of their model year 2012 and 2013 models after EPA testing found discrepancies between agency results and data submitted by the company.'

“According to the EPA announcement, ‘EPA’s audit testing occasionally uncovers individual vehicles whose label values are incorrect and requires that the manufacturer re-label the vehicle. This has happened twice since 2000. This is the first time where a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer have deviated so significantly.'

“As we wrote to President Obama in January, Hyundai’s deceptive MPG estimates has greatly disadvantaged American automakers, as well as the American taxpayer, whose full faith and credit have financially sustained those companies.

“We call upon you to hold hearings to give the American people more information about the Hyundai-MPG scandal.

“Unbeknownst to most Americans, automakers self-test their vehicles to determine the EPA MPG claim that appears on the EPA-mandated window sticker.  Elantra drivers alerted us to the fact that their MPG experience was very different than the promised ‘EPA’ numbers."

The “40 Mile Per Gallon Elantra” was the centerpiece of a massive television, print and radio advertising campaign aimed at convincing drivers that they would save money with $4 per gallon gasoline, when in fact drivers were routinely getting ten miles per gallon less than advertised.  Hyundai widely advertised and promoted its four vehicles that received 40 miles per gallon -- the Elantra, Sonata Hybrid, Accent and Veloster – but all were reported by the EPA as having falsified MPG estimates on their window stickers.

"We urge you to hold hearings in order to ascertain how Hyundai arrived at its ‘40 Mile Per Gallon’ claims and whether the South Korean company’s business strategy led to falsified mileage estimates submitted to the EPA and incorrect window stickers.  The consequence of the incorrect window stickers has been a loss in sales by American car manufacturers whose MPG window stickers have not been found to be false and who played by the rules,” continued the letter.

“We believe the companies’ chief executive officers should be put under oath and documents related to the testing should be subpoenaed in an effort to understand the cause of the false mileage estimates and window stickers.  The false testing that led to the conveniently round “40 mile per gallon” numbers on the window stickers of four vehicles is very likely to have its roots in a marketing decision at the highest levels of the company. Hyundai/Kia drivers and the American people deserve to know the truth and have those involved answer questions on the matter.”

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Comment Preferences

  •  guess they hired Joe Isuzu (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    you know those guys always land on their feet

    It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

    by sayitaintso on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 11:06:40 AM PST

  •  The window stickers have long over-stated (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IndieGuy, skrekk

    the estimated MPG - although that was remedied to some degree a couple years back.

    The bigger boondoggle is the alleged tightening of CAFE standards to 55 mpg when in reality loopholes mean that the real value will be something like 20 mpg less than that.

  •  Hearings would be good (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think this diary is overselling a bit though. About the Elantra, the letter claims "in fact drivers were routinely getting ten miles per gallon less than advertised," but the EPA approved revisions only dropped the combined rate from 33 to 32, with hwy dropping from 40 to 38.

    I bought a Kia Soul this summer which was rated at 30 combined, but took a hit down to 27. My driving style has mellowed over the years, and I am actually getting 33. Since they are making up for the labeling by paying for the difference in gas cost, plus 15%, I really can't complain. I'm getting better than the originally advertised mileage, plus a ~$15/1000 mile rebate as long as I own it.

    Still, they should be called on the carpet to figure out whether this was 'procedural errors at our testing operations in Korea' or premeditated dishonesty.

    Disclaimer: If the above comment can possibly be construed as snark, it probably is.

    by grubber on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 11:42:57 AM PST

    •  I'm familiar (0+ / 0-)

      with how a lot of internal testing goes in the auto industry... they knew.  There is no way they didn't know.  And with the amount of testing they do, at different facilities around the globe (yeah prototype vehicles are developed in multiple locations), there is no way for all of the different testing/R&D centers to all gets estimates off by the same amount.  There's just not.

      Not to mention that they don't even do all of their testing in-house.  A lot of car crash testing facilities assist in these types of testing (though a majority of it is done at in-house R&D centers).

  •  OMFG!! (0+ / 0-)

    ONOZ!!  Let's put together another absolutely useless panel of congressional "think-they-know-it-alls" and try to determine why someone's car is getting lower MPG than it says on the sticker!!!  Horrors!!!

    Could it possibly be the way you drive the frigging car?

    YMMV, as the case may be.

    "There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result." - Winston Churchill

    by Dingodude on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 11:43:22 AM PST

  •  For the most part, NO conventional gasoline engine (0+ / 0-)

    cars will get 40mpg.  

    Some of the older Honda Civics did.  You might squeeze 40mpg out of a Fiat 500 with a manual as well as a Toyota Yaris with same tranny.

    OTOH, I get 45mpg in my biodiesel powered 2000 VW Golf with 270,000 miles and running strong.

    •  Simply not true (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy, lastman

      Relatively few cars get 40mpg highway because U.S. cars tend to have larger engines than their global counterparts and because drivers of lower-performance cars in the US have resisted diesels and turbos.  The theoretical limit (based on the energy content of gasoline) is about 60-70 mpg; diesel is higher because the energy per gallon of diesel is higher.  (That's why they get better gas mileage.)  None of this factors in plug in hybrids, of course.

      •  Do you mean "diesel mileage" (0+ / 0-)
        diesel is higher because the energy per gallon of diesel is higher.  (That's why they get better gas mileage.)
        in any event, glad you didn't get around to talking about the energy content of corn alcohol - that's really, really pathetic!
      •  You are right and I stand corrected. (0+ / 0-)

        I should have said new cars available for purchase in the U.S.

        And I am seeing reports of people getting >40mpg in the new Chevrolet Cruze Eco which uses a 1.4L turbocharged gasoline engine.  Passenger car diesels always have a turbo these days.

    •  I had an 1983 Honda Civic that (0+ / 0-)

      routinely got 46 to 48 mpg, when driven prudently.

      The point being, almost 30 years later, you'd think that there'd be a plethora of automobiles available that good or better.

    •  It is possible, (0+ / 0-)

      but not likely.

      Consider that the Model A got about 25 MPG.

      A Toyota I had in the late 70's got about 35.

      The body and chassis of the Toyota massed easily twice that of the Model A.

      Putting a modern, efficient engine into a very lightweight body would get good mileage.

      And then some asshole in a Hummer would smash it into flinders.

      The MGB I had in the mid 70's got  variable but great mileage, but the body was made of tinfoil.

      That said, a balance between efficiency and safety is possible, even without the advantages of the Prius I drive now.

      I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

      by trumpeter on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 03:58:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well I don't know about other Hyundai's but (0+ / 0-)

    I had a Accent that got 38-42 mpg on the interstate and 32-34 around town so I who had made fun of Hyundai's before getting this car cause it was the only one I could get a loan on was really upset when I lost it after my unemployment ran out an it got repoed.

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