Hyundai and Kia to Compensate Owners for Inflated Fuel-Economy Ratings
After announcing that it reported erroneously high fuel-economy numbers for its cars, Hyundai may have a new use for its “Save the Asterisks!” ad campaign. For the first go-round, the cheeky commercials told consumers that the Elantra, unlike its compact competitors, needed no special trim package to achieve a 40-mpg highway rating. In a sense, that’s still true: There’s no special package that will bring the 2013 Elantra up to 40.
The Elantra isn’t alone in its downward revision, which affects 900,000 vehicles. Although fuel-economy ratings are EPA-certified, the government agency doesn’t actually do the testing itself; it sets standards for outside testing and looks over the results. Hyundai and its subsidiary, Kia, explain that “procedural errors” in testing in Korea led to incorrect numbers across their product lines from 2011 to 2013. As a result, neither company has a single vehicle rated at 40-mpg highway, a bright line of significance more to marketers, ad agencies, and shoppers even if it’s not meaningfully different from 38.
Payouts to Owners
Hyundai and Kia are issuing debit cards to owners of affected vehicles, based on the number of miles the car has driven and the difference between the new and old EPA combined rating. Ironically, since the U.S. measures fuel economy as distance per volume rather than Europe’s volume per distance, the higher the mpg rating, the smaller the difference in actual consumption. Since we’re talking about relatively efficient cars here, the difference between a 33-mpg rating and a 35 is quite small.
We think this is an appropriate move, and are glad Hyundai apologized and took action quickly. Only time will show how much it hits Hyundai and Kia’s images with shoppers, but we don’t expect the fallout to be long-lasting. You can check out Hyundai’s specially built website and see a full list of affected models here.