The EPA said it’s the first case in which erroneous test results were uncovered in such a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer. Only two similar cases have been discovered since 2000, and those involved single models.
Company executives apologized for the discrepancies and promised to compensate customers because they’re using more gasoline than expected. The executives said the higher mileage figures were unintentional, caused by errors in following EPA mileage test procedures. The customer payments are likely to cost Hyundai and Kia millions of dollars.
The EPA testing requirements are specific enough so the companies should have been able to come up with accurate results, said Naeim Henein, director of the Center for Automotive Research at Wayne State University in Detroit. “This might have been a mistake or intentional,” he said. “Nobody knows until the investigation.”
An examination of test results should show the EPA if the figures were raised intentionally or by errors, Henein said. Intentionally boosting mileage figures is a crime, he said.
Intentional or not, overstating the mileage could cut into Hyundai and Kia sales, especially with people who are deciding between brands and ready to buy soon, said Jesse Toprak, vice president of market intelligence for the TrueCar.com auto pricing website. But in the long run, the brands still offer good value for the money, even with lower mileage numbers, he said.
“I don’t think it’s going to be necessarily a major hit. It’s probably going to be a speed bump,” Toprak said.
The EPA said it began looking at Hyundai and Kia when it received a dozen complaints from consumers that the mileage of their 2012 Elantra cars fell short of the window sticker numbers. The EPA included the Elantra in an annual fuel economy audit, and that led to the investigation.