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Consumer Watchdog Sues Hyundai Over 40 MPG Claim

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On: Mon, Jul 16, 2012 at 4:04PM | By: Chris Weiss


Consumer Watchdog Sues Hyundai Over 40 MPG Claim

A California non-profit consumer advocacy group is suing Hyundai based upon the "40 mpg" claim of the Elantra. The group says that the Korean automaker didn't comply with Federal Trade Commission regulations in advertising the number.

The Elantra may be good enough to boast Car of the Year honors, but apparently it's not good enough to stay out of the crosshairs of the legal system. Hyundai advertises a 40 mpg rating on the model. That rating is highway only - the city rating is a much more modest 29 mpg, and the combined rating sits at 33 mpg. Of course, advertising either of those figures would cut into the impressive 40 number.

It's not uncommon for automakers to highlight the higher highway fuel economy in ads and press releases. What Hyundai did wrong, says Consumer Watchdog, is fail to disclose the figure's origin.

The group explains in a press release: "The lawsuit alleges that Hyundai touted "The 40 Mile Per Gallon Elantra" in high-impact television, Internet, and print advertisements without government-required disclosures that those mileage estimates were for highway driving only and that city driving mileage estimates were much lower. The omitted disclosures would have informed consumers that the car does not attain 40 MPG under most driving conditions."

The group says that the ads misled tens of thousands of Californians, causing them to purchase Elantras and incur unexpected fuel costs. Consumer Watchdog is seeking damages on behalf of Californians that purchased or leased 2011 and 2012 models.

The case will likely come down to the wording of regulations, and Hyundai should insure the nature of its ads meet those regulations, but damages just seem ridiculous. All it would take to fact check the 40 mpg claim is about 10 seconds on fueleconomy.gov (maybe 20 seconds if you didn't know the exact IP address and needed to find it through Google). You read all kinds of other information when buying a car, shouldn't you double check the fuel economy if it's the main reason for making the purchase? It's not as though Hyundai lied or made the figure up; it just portrayed its product in the best possible light - kind of like all advertising does.

The EPA rating isn't a promise; it's an estimate. The EPA refers to its ratings as estimates and makes clear that drivers' actual mileages will vary, depending on driver-specific factors. In other words, just because the label says 40 mpg, doesn't mean you'll actually get 40 mpg.

On the flip side, automakers could give a more accurate picture by advertising combined mpg figures in place of highway-only figures.




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