Hyundai’s 40 MPG Claim Could Face Class Action


Consumer Watchdog is working with a Hyundai Elantra owner to put the company on the hot seat for its 40 mpg claims, saying the car can’t come close in reality.

This isn’t the first time Consumer Watchdog made headlines in recent history for attacking the Korean automaker’s advertised figure. Late last year, the group approached the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking it to investigate the 40 mpg claim. Now, Louis Bird of Sacramento, Calif. is serving as the campaign’s poster boy. As an Elantra owner, he kept a mileage log and claims the car barely reaches 29 mpg in open highway driving. Consumer Watchdog is partnering with Bird to launch a class action lawsuit against Hyundai.

“We are hoping that other car makers will take notice and realize that if you do it wrong, you will have to pay the price,” said Jamie Court, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

Meanwhile, Hyundai stood by its figure, saying it was certified by the EPA in the first place. Should the suit succeed, Hyundai will be ordered to stop using the numbers in its advertisements – something that plays a key role in the car’s sales.

With gas prices on an upward trend, consumers are changing their focus from performance to efficiency, which has been one of Hyundai’s crown jewels. That’s the case for many automakers offering high-mpg cars, and an issue that already went to court in the last few months when Honda’s estimated milage for the Civic hybrid met with a class action suit.

In the end, the automaker paid an estimated $170 million settlement, $8.5 million of which went to the attorneys. Each member of the suit only ended up with between $100 and $200. That’s troubling because if Hyundai faces a similar fate it could mean a barrage of lawsuits leveled at the industry by law firms hoping to cash in.

The subject of much confusion and criticism, EPA estimates are often much higher than the fuel economy drivers actually experience. Even the agency admits its numbers are more useful to compare between cars than to estimate what a driver will personally experience. Gas mileage also falls as much at an individual driver’s feet as it does anything else. Having a heavy right foot in any car will burn more fuel.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]