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Hyundai, Kia owners sue over exaggerated mileage claims

75 models and trims posted incorrect EPA estimates. It's the second time in 10 years Hyundai has been sued for overstating its model specs.

By Clifford Atiyeh Nov 7, 2012 1:55PM

Despite Hyundai and Kia admitting fault in overstating fuel economy for 1.1 million cars and initiating a lifetime compensation program, three owners filed a class-action lawsuit against the automakers early this week.

On Monday, after the automakers made statements on Friday, Ohio residents owning a 2012 Kia Rio and 2013 Hyundai Elantra alleged the companies "knowingly or recklessly exaggerated estimated gas mileage and fuel economy rating information," according to the Detroit News. Their suit, filed Sunday at a U.S. District Court, seeks $5 million in damages.

This is an addition to a lawsuit that California nonprofit Consumer Watchdog filed in July against Hyundai for false advertising, in which the automaker claimed that four of its cars achieved 40 mpg. Now, after retesting by the Environmental Protection Agency, none of its cars do. 

Consumer Watchdog could not be reached for comment as to the current status of this lawsuit. In January, the nonprofit sent President Barack Obama a letter asking him to direct the EPA to audit Hyundai's fuel-economy figures after receiving complaints from owners. Hyundai initially denied the claims and continued to do so until receiving notice from the EPA. As everyone should now know, the EPA tests only 15 percent of all new models; most of the numbers, as was the case with Hyundai and Kia, are submitted by the manufacturer and never vetted for accuracy.

As Automotive News reminded us Wednesday, in 2002 Hyundai was caught overstating engine performance -- sometimes as high as 20 horsepower above the actual rating -- on 1.3 million cars. Hyundai was sued by owners, to whom it was expected to pay damages of up to $127 million.

Says reporter Mark Rechtin:

Consider this: Back in the 1990s, before Hyundai had a reputation for quality, it was selling a lot fewer vehicles, many of which were seen as wheezy donkeys. So the automaker banked on horsepower.
Hyundai vehicles suddenly found buckets of power in its wee engines, gaining 5 or 10 hp that hadn't existed before. The engines jumped to the head of their competitive classes. Horsepower became a key refrain in Hyundai advertising.
Then came the hammer. The EPA busted Hyundai for overstating horsepower on six vehicles spanning up to 11 model years. Ratings on some six-cylinder models were off by as much as 20 hp. Hyundai claimed the too-high numbers stemmed from improper testing procedures.

While Americans file lawsuits as often as they order extra-large pizzas, Hyundai and Kia's missteps are huge, especially for Hyundai, which ran a "Save the Asterisks" Web campaign making fun of other automakers that sold only limited numbers of high-mpg models. They were digging straight at Ford, Chevrolet and Honda, which offer special trims such as the Cruze Eco and Focus SFE that deliver higher gas mileage than the normal trim. Hyundai had claimed that its Elantra, among three other models, had 40-mpg highway ratings no matter what engine, transmission or trim. The company had also touted that its lineup offered the most 40-mpg models in the country.

Instead, the companies misstated EPA estimates on 75 trims from the 2011-2013 model years, according to new customer websites set up by Hyundai and Kia. But the Elantra, which dipped from 40 mpg highway to 38 mpg, was not the worst offender. The 2013 Kia Rio automatic now posts four fewer highway miles -- it went from an EPA rating of 30 mpg city/40 mpg highway to 28/36. Even worse and most ironic: The 2013 Kia Soul with the 2.0-liter engine -- in "Eco" trim, nonetheless -- dropped a full six mpg on the highway and three in the city, from 27/35 to 24/29. 

Of course, EPA estimates have always been estimates. But they're the only baseline that shoppers have to assess and compare vehicles. Instead of joining lawsuits, we're sure most Hyundai and Kia owners will happily take annual cash payments from the automakers as compensation for the difference in its claimed fuel savings. The program, which will last for the entire duration of ownership, is estimated to cost the companies $100 million – or roughly, what a larger class-action lawsuit might cost if they didn’t act first.

"Owners have responded very favorably to the plan," Hyundai spokesman Chris Hosford told the Detroit News. "Our priority is to make this right for our owners, and that's precisely what this program does."

Nov 8, 2012 7:26AM

"Ohio residents owning a 2012 and 2013 .......... Their suit, filed Sunday at a U.S. District Court, seeks $5 million in damages."


So let me see if I get this straight.  That would be $40,000 for their cars and $4,960,000 for what, emotional stress?



Mar 6, 2013 2:37PM
We have owned three Hyundai autos: 2004 XG350L (six cylinder), 2006 Sonata (six cylinder), and a 2012 Sonata four cylinder. I only pay attention to highway mileage. The XG350--27 mpg, 2006 Sonata--28.5 mpg, and 2012 Sonata--38+ mpg. No problem from this household--will buy again. John in Michigan
Dec 12, 2013 10:05AM
I just recently bought a 2013 Elantra.  Hyundai claims it will get 29 city & 39 highway and 7% more if the eco button is on.  So far the best mileage I can get in town is around 22 and highway 34.  The only reason I bought the car was because I wanted a vehicle that would get great gas mileage. I brought the vehicle back to the Dealer and they acted like they never heard of the misguided mileage claims by Hyundai. I called **** and they didn't how to react!  My car now has 4000 miles on it and I want Hyundai to give me a different vehicle that gets the mileage they claim it will get.  I don't want to have to jump through hoops and have to go to the Dealer each month to get a gas allowance check from them, I just want a vehicle that is what they advertised! If anyone has recommendations on how to get Hyundai to comply, please give me some advice.
Nov 9, 2012 9:09AM

Ok, lets take a look at this.  The mileage numbers are an absolute best case scenario.  Real world drivers rarely get those numbers any ways.  If you purchased a car only on its fuel economy well I do not feel sorry for you.  How about they give those two drivers their money back?  Car companies spend billions of dollars bringing cars to market.  I do not really think that it was an honest mistake, so how about we just make them go through 5 years of having every car tested by the EPA.  Fine them for the cost of testing every model durring those years.  That makes more sense to me.  Nobody should make money off of buying a car.  At most they should get a refund, as Kia has set up.  Damages for trade in value is stupid as well.

I think that I would just get out of the car business totally.  Just wait until 2025 when we have the super high mileage goals...


Jul 18, 2014 6:37AM
I have a 2013 Kia Optima 2.4 liter  and it doesn't come anywhere near 24 city rating. It's getting about 19. The dealership laughs it off. These guys are flagrant liars.
Jun 12, 2014 7:25PM
Lying about mileage, and horsepower, and no telling what else. And people fall for it, and think they are getting something for nothing.
Oct 30, 2013 12:06AM
 I am actually getting better then expected mileage from my 3.8 Genesis Coupe Gran touring edition. About 22 MPG, average on the car. It's not the best mileage but most of my time is spent on two lane city roads.  Love the car so far with it's refined sport ride and speed when needed. There are too many lawyers in this country. Law suits for every occasion seem to be the norm? 
Jul 18, 2014 8:25AM

I have enjoyed the performance of our 2007 Sonota so much that I made that our second car and purchased a new Sonata Hybrid in 2013. The mpg for the Hybrid is better then they advertised. I drive 160 highway miles daily (averaging 65-70 mph) and get approximately 41.2-42.4 mpg. I've had as much as 46.5 while driving it more conservatively.  I am very satisfied with both of our Sonata's from Hyundai.



Dec 16, 2013 3:07PM
Are second owners eligible for making claims on Hyundai cars ?
Mar 4, 2013 5:58AM
 I am actually getting better then expected mileage from my 3.8 Genesis Coupe Gran touring edition. About 22 MPG, average on the car. It's not the best mileage but most of my time is spent on two lane city roads.  Love the car so far with it's refined sport ride and speed when needed. There are too many lawyers in this country. Law suits for every occasion seem to be the norm? 
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