Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hyundai and Kia caught fudging the MPGs a bit (just a bit)

Though most of the Hyundai and Kia fleet were off by only 1 or 2 miles per gallon, the Kia Soul was off by a whopping 6. I guess they had actual hamsters driving the cars when they did fuel efficiency tests. 

It was only the other day, when I was talking about Hyundai's minor slip in quality rankings, that I made the case that Hyundai's (and sister automaker Kia's) rise relied heavily not just on looking cool but also on building trust with car consumers. Hyundai went from being a laughingstock maker of cheap econoboxes (see meme #46) to manufacturer of smart-looking cars that are near the top of the safety rankings, among the most reliable, and yet remain some of the most economical cars around.

The thing is, Hyundai and Kia really can't afford to screw that up. You know, with things like this:
South Korean automakers Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America overstated the fuel economy on nearly a million late model vehicles and will issue owners special debit cards to reimburse the extra money they are paying for fuel.

The error was announced Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which monitors the fuel economy tests by automakers.

The mileage on most vehicle labels will be reduced by 1 to 2 miles per gallon, and the largest adjustment will be 6 mpg highway for the Kia Soul, federal regulators said. Both automakers will place new labels reflecting the corrected mileage estimates on cars currently at dealers.

“Consumers rely on the window sticker to help make informed choices about the cars they buy," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “EPA’s investigation will help protect consumers and ensure a level playing field among automakers.”

The Korean automakers, which are siblings, and share automotive components and testing, said they had overstated fuel economy ratings for about 900,000 vehicles, or 35% of the 2011-13 model year vehicles sold through Wednesday.

They blamed “procedural errors” at joint testing operations in Korea for the problem.
To be fair, Hyundai and Kia are by no means the only automakers to have been caught making "errors" in their MPG ratings, and it seems they are taking a page out of Apple in the wake of its recent Maps app fiasco by just admitting they'd made a mistake and then offering a financial reimbursement:
“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.
Don't worry, no administrative sepukku has accompanied that statement. But instead, Hyundai/Kia are going to give out personalized debit cards to owners of the vehicles, calculated to reimburse customers for the shortfall in the companies’ mileage claims and what the EPA has found is the correct number for combined city and highway driving fuel economy rating.

My mother has a two-year-old Hyundai Santa Fe, and I plan to help her follow up on this. In the meantime, you can go seek reimbursement yourself, at Hyundai and Kia, respectively.

It turns out our family Santa Fe is the wrong model year to have been affected by this. The Los Angeles Times has a nice pictorial on which cars are affected.



  1. This has definitely shaken my faith in buying a new Kia Soul now.

  2. Well, it's good that they are addressing this problem, but something is telling me that their due diligence has more to do with trade than the rights of consumers. American companies like Chevrolet are known to have obsolescence clauses and there was not much done about that. Manufactured to break down so that consumers will buy a new one just a few years later. Smart business strategy. What American consumers have done is move on to foreign carmakers like Toyota, Hyundai, and German carmakers. Chevrolets are the worst car that I have ridden in with a leaky roof, leaky floors, gasoline smell and this was only after a few years. I have also ridden in a Hyundai when it was known as a crappy car yet it was never that bad.

    The FTA has enabled Korean carmakers to increase their competitiveness over American ones. This is in addition to having better performance and styling as most foreign cars do. American cars won't do well in the Korean market and not because of some bias in the Korean market. German cars have done quite well and the PT Cruiser (by Chevy) has also. If American cars want to do well, they need to improve their performance and styling, understand the Korean market and not just demand market share because they exist. Maybe patriotic Americans will be fooled, but not picky Korean consumers.

  3. I've got a 2009 Elantra Touring. 2.5 years and not a single problem. More storage than some small SUVs, 26-36 mpg, 0-60 in around 8 seconds. The entire car is just well built, comfortable and lots of room. My only niggles: stereo could be louder, and it sucks in the snow with stock tires.
    Thanks, @Allisa

    1. Despite these problems, I think the Elantra seems like it should be on the top of the list of anyone looking for a mid-sized or smaller vehicle. I'm trying to ween my auntie off her SUV and back into a regular car, though she would rather get the Sonata.


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