After Hyundai and Kia made an announcement last week that several models needed to have their fuel economy numbers adjusted downward by the EPA, you’d think the fact that they’d be reimbursing owners for as long as they own their cars would be enough of a punishment.
But it’s not.
A new lawsuit for lawyers fees and unspecified damages was brought on in Southern Ohio District Court added to the class-action suit that was already well underway for California residents affected. A full list of the affected 900,000 vehicles, made from the 2011 to the 2013 model year, can be found here.
In the two lawsuits, owners are claiming fraud and negligence, among other things, assuming the automakers had willful knowledge that they were inflating their fuel economy numbers to sell more cars. Hyundai and Kia claim that their errors were caused during testing Seoul, whereby miscalculations were made during “coastdown” procedures that account for aerodynamic friction, tire rolling resistance, and drivetrain losses. Several cars that were claimed to get 40 mpg on the highway have since been readjusted to 37 to 39 mpg, depending on the vehicle.
Back when Hyundai introduced its lineup of 40-mpg vehicles, they were heavily touted in advertising campaigns that all of them could do it without needing some sort of special highly efficient model, “without the asterisk.” For Kia, its biggest hit came by way of the 2013 Kia Soul Eco, which took a 6-mpg tumble from 35 to 29 mpg on the highway. Kia spokesman James Hope told us that it will retain its “Eco” badging, however, because “The ECO package includes Kia’s new Idle Stop & Go (ISG), a 56 AH AGM-type battery to better handle the increased number of engine start cycles, and low rolling resistance tires.”
Hyundai and Kia have begun their public relations campaign to get customers on board. In the companies’ joint statement, they will be reimbursing owners with refillable debit cards for the difference between the old EPA numbers and the adjusted numbers at current gas prices, plus 15 percent. Customers will have to go back to their dealerships to get the cards refilled, which will be charged as a service expense. It will also give dealerships some much-needed face time with customers to restore goodwill.
But, as the case may be in Ohio, some customers aren’t content with the solution. In an interview with Automotive News, lawyer Jeffrey Goldenberg, one of the partners litigating the class action, says “From our perspective, there’s a lot of information that isn’t known yet compared to what is known. We will certainly be interested as this litigation goes forward to see the breadth of how deep these problems go.”
Sources: Automotive News (Subscription required), Hyundai, Kia