Hyundai and Kia Caught in EPA Mileage Rating Fraud

A costly, image damaging coverup for the Hyundai and Kia brands. They are running a reimbursement program for owners to cover additional fuel costs from bogus mpg ratings. Fines and lawsuits could add to the expense.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America will lower their fuel economy (mpg) estimates for the many of their model year 2012 and 2013 vehicles after EPA testing found “discrepancies” between agency results and data submitted by the company. Hyundai was already embroiled in lawsuits over its mileage claims. Its legal position is likely now considerably compromised.

The fraud produced mileage claims that could be as much as 6 mpg higher than EPA tests showed. About 900,000 vehicles are affected in the largest mileage scam in history, including the best selling Kia Optima and Hyundai Elantra sedans. Both makers heavily advertise and promote fuel economy as cornerstones of their brands, of course. Moreover, Hyundai has knocked other automakers for having an asterisk in their advertising since only some the models got the best mileage in the ad. Hyundai, in effect, should have been running ads with the world’s largest mileage asterisk, *These Numbers Are False.

EPA’s audit testing occasionally uncovers individual vehicles whose label values are incorrect and requires the manufacturer re-label the vehicle. This has happened only twice since 2000. EPA said this is the first time where a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer have deviated so significantly.

“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. The company claimed that false mpg ratings resulted from procedural errors during a process called “coast down” testing  in Korea. Coast down testing simulates aerodynamic drag, tire rolling resistance and drivetrain frictional losses and provides the technical data used to program the test dynamometers that generate EPA fuel economy ratings. The computer running the dynamometer test was using bad data that made the cars look more efficient than they were.

The two Korean brands owned by the same auto company have now submitted to the EPA a plan for cars currently on dealer lots to be re-labeled with new window stickers reflecting  corrected mileage estimates. The mileage on some vehicle labels will be reduced by one to two mpg. The largest adjustment will be six mpg highway for the Kia Soul.  

“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.”

At its National Vehicle and Fuel Emission Laboratory (NVFEL) in Ann Arbor, Mich., EPA routinely tests vehicles – 150 to 200 a year, or about 15% of the possible vehicle configurations – to ensure that their performance matches the mileage and emissions data required to be submitted to EPA by the automakers, who self-certify.

The auditing helps to ensure that vehicles on the road meet tailpipe emission standards to protect public health and the environment and that all automakers follow the same procedures for calculating mileage estimates. EPA conducts both random and targeted audits, based on factors such as consumer complaints.

EPA had received a number of consumer complaints about Hyundai mileage estimates and therefore targeted Hyundai. Through the agency’s ongoing audit program, staff experts at EPA’s NVFEL observed differences between results from EPA testing of a 2012 Hyundai Elantra and information provided to EPA by Hyundai. The agency expanded its investigation into data for other Hyundai and Kia vehicles, leading to today’s announcement. EPA would not comment on whether the companies will be fined for violating U.S. regulations.

EPA and DOE are updating their joint fuel economy site to post the Hyundai and Kia corrected numbers.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
This entry was posted in auto news, fools 'n frauds, fuel economy or emissions, news analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Hyundai and Kia Caught in EPA Mileage Rating Fraud

  1. Alan D says:

    The Kia offer of annual audits and gas cards to make up the difference is way off mark. What about the inconvenience and time wasted at a dealership, we all know how that goes. Kia owners should get two options (1) be happy and accept the gas card or BIG option number two (2) total refund of all payments made included down payments, cost, etc., with no credit score hit or games, only a smile and a sorry.

    This will show true brand good faith and in most instances the returns will be a small percentage of the whole. If the refund option is not offered, I see major lawsuits coming down the pike

    Kia.. Do the right thing and you will be rewarded. Upset brand buyer.

  2. Vicki N says:

    I bought a 2013 Kia Sorento 4DR 2WD LX in Monroe, LA in June 2012. The window sticker stated 24-32 mpg depending on city/hwy usage. I do good to get 23-24 mpg ANY time. I am very unhappy with this mpg ‘overstatement’ that I’m having to live with… .BTW, I like my vehicle otherwise, it’s just that I feel like I’ve been ‘schmoozed’ on the gas mileage, which is VERY important to me and was stated to dealership when I bought this vehicle….

  3. Magdalena Cruz says:

    I bought a 2013 Kia RIO LX in Braman Kia, Miami, in Nov. 2012. The window sticker stated 33 average mpg depending on city/hwy usage. I do good to get 23-24 mpg ANY time. I am very unhappy with this mpg ‘overstatement’ because the main reason to get a new car was SAVINGS & SECURITY what I do not have when I am forced to stop more than two times a week in a gas station, whiich is dangerous and unconfortable. To have a car that ssaves in gas mileage is VERY important to me and was stated to dealership when I bought this vehicle….I think I need to return the car to the dealership, but it is devaluated in $7,000.00 after only two months of usage.

  4. David Downey says:

    Kia is not honoring the fuel rebate either; we have not received the rebate money as of Jan. 22nd. We have been in contact with them twice over a card supposedly shipped Dec. 6th. We called after the 15 days they said was necessary to wait, only to be told we had to wait 30 days in total before they would consider it lost. We did, we called back and was told they would send another, that was Jan. 6th, and guess what it still hasn’t arrived. Yesterday, I called and asked to speak to a supervisor who said it was mailed a couple of days ago. No one at Kia seems to know anything about where these cards come from or anything, and I feel I am getting the run around, has anyone else had similar problem?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *