By on December 15, 2011

Yes, many cars to do not meet their EPA ratings. But few are as far off as the Elantra… In your Elantra advertising, you prominently feature only your “40 mpg” claim. Yet the dismal independent test and real-world results for your city and combined mileage claims mean buyers are unable to make accurate comparisons. This is in effect a deception, and one we ask you to discontinue in your advertising while awaiting a welcome EPA re-evaluation.

This letter, sent to Hyundai USA CEO John Krafcik yesterday by “Consumer Watchdog”, doesn’t mince words. It does, however, raise two questions:

1) What exactly is “Consumer Watchdog”?
2) Does the organization have a valid point?

The 40-mpg pitch has been a big part of Hyundai’s small-car strategy in the past year, with the “unique selling proposition” being that all of Hyundai’s Accents and Elantras, not just special “SFE” or “Eco” models, hit that mark. Now, a California public-interest group has called BS on the MPG and requested that the EPA formally test the Elantra themselves?

What?

The EPA doesn’t perform mileage tests?

That’s right. The vast majority of mileage results come from internal manufacturer testing to EPA specs, reported to the government and duly republished. Since the penalty for lying to the government in this country tends to be rather massive for anyone not directly involved in the banking industry, one assumes the results are honest. When it comes to Hyundai, however, the issue isn’t quite as clear-cut.

“Consumer Watchdog” offers a full copy of its letter to Hyundai on its website. Perhaps the most difficult issue to dodge:

In a separate category are Fuelly.com reports (from the most conservative fuel-conscious drivers), that measured the Elantra at 6.7% below stated MPG combined—in the Fuelly world, that put Elantra at the bottom of 12 models claiming to get 40 MPG in some fashion. The Honda CRZ, at the middle of the pack, exceeded its EPA combined rating of 37 MPG by 2 MPG, or 5.5%. This means consumers are getting a poor relative value when they buy the Elantra on the
basis of MPG. This is especially disturbing to city drivers.

Alright, so these people may have a point… but who are they? The registration information for the consumerwatchdog.org site looks like this:

Registrant Name:Doug Heller
Registrant Organization:Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rig
Registrant Street1:1750 Ocean Park Blvd.
Registrant Street2:Ste 200
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Santa Monica
Registrant State/Province:California
Registrant Postal Code:90405
Registrant Country:US

The Wikipedia page for the organization states that it was founded in 1985 by California Prop 103 author Harvey Rosenfield, a former Ralph Nader associate. Until now, they appear to have focused on medical and health-insurance-related issues, with a brief diversion into “investigating” Google’s privacy practices. A brief argument on the Wiki discussion page alleges that the principals of Consumer Watchdog have been employed by Microsoft in the past.

Like the Southern Poverty Law Center and Operation PUSH, Consumer Watchdog appears to be an organization which pushes for certain progressive-agenda items, occasionally with corporate backing. Why has Hyundai come across their radar screen? The idealist in me wants to believe that they are genuinely concerned about falsely reported mileage claims; the cynical devil on my shoulder suggests it’s simply a shakedown targeting a cash-rich company with a publicity-averse Korean parent. Perhaps they’re relying on Krafcik weighing the costs of EPA testing against the costs of making a relatively minor seven-figure contribution to Consumer Watchdog. It’s anybody’s guess.

We’ll be watching Consumer Watchdog as they watch Hyundai. If they back off, we will be asking whether or not someone got paid. In the meantime, feel free to share your opinion, and your experiences with Hyundai fuel economy, below.

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89 Comments on “Untrue At Any Speed: Former Nader Associate Puts Hyundai In His Sights...”


  • avatar
    MusicMachine

    I’m not saying anything regarding the validity of the “Watch dog” or the EPA or Hyundai, but I can see how it would be tempting if your product is somewhere 6.7% shy of the 40 MPG holy grail…to just fudge the figures a little.

    But I am fond of that baby blue color. It makes it seem not as over-styled. And I have to say: even if the Elantra achieved slightly under the said combined MPG figures…I think I’d still buy it.

    Interesting research tho. Can anyone find out more on Nader’s Ass.?

  • avatar
    thornmark

    The Chevy Equinox is notorious for the prominence of gas mileage claims in its ads while the real world experience tends to be wildly different.

    I believe both Consumer Reports and Car & Driver found the Equinox to deliver poorer real world mileage than most of its rivals.

    Yet the claims continue and surely the not so savvy continue to be duped.
    http://www.automotiveforums.com/t1059597-discuss2011_equinox_poor_mpg_hwy_.

    And, of course,
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/tag/equinox-real-world-mileage/

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Aha! I knew it! Now I know why I don’t like Hyundai – it’s the Corvair of the 21st century!

    My 2004 Impala, on the other hand, beats the EPA mileage estimate on the window sticker, which I still have, regularly. Our 2002 CR-V is pretty dead-on to the advertised. Our 2007 MX5? Yes, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      You have to remember that all those cars were designed without super tall, multiple overdrive gears and 6, 7, or 8 speed automatics. Those are the cars that I suspect the most.

      I always like to look at the CR numbers of many of these ‘too good to be true’ vehicles. Going by consumer reports numbers (note, all with ATs)…

      Model : 0-60 : 1/4mi : CR city : CR hwy : CR trip : EPA city : EPA HWY
      Elantra : 9.5 : 17.2 : 20 : 39 : 35 : 29 : 40
      Corolla : 9.9 : 17.6 : 23 : 40 : 39 : 27 : 35
      Focus : 9.2 : 17.1 : 18 : 43 : 37 : 28 : 38
      Civic : 10.1 : 17.8 : 18 : 43 : 37 : 28 : 39

      So, performance is pretty much identical between all of the different models. The Hyundai has the best EPA ratings for city and highway. It ranks 2nd in observed city, 4th in observed highway, and 4th in observed trip. The Corolla with the unloved 4AT is 4th in city and last in highway on the EPA cycle but manages the best city number, 3rd best highway, and best trip.

      Another neat thing to see is that the Cruze with the 1.8L gets nearly identical mileage to the 1.4T (non-eco). The city mileage on a Cruze is dreadful, though. Those extra pounds it is packing over the rest of the class really come home to roost.

      Model : 0-60 : 1/4mi : CR city : CR hwy : CR trip : EPA city : EPA HWY
      Cruze 1.8 : 10.5 : 18.0 : 17 : 36 : 34 : 22 : 35
      Cruze 1.4T : 9.8 : 17.6 : 17 : 36 : 35 : 24 : 36

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        I was going to mention the abysmal fuel economy I’ve experienced in the Cruze. On a recent 230 mile trip (2011 Cruze LT 1.8 w/ 13k miles), all but 7 miles were highway, I got 26.3 mpg. I wasn’t exactly flooring, either. Just using the cruise control and staying with traffic on an open highway. 52 miles of the drive are nearly flat, too.

        Other vehicles I’ve driven on the exact same route:

        2011 Dodge Charger V6/5AT: 30.3 mpg
        2012 Chrysler 200 V6: 32.1 mpg
        2011 Kia Optima LX: 34.4 mpg
        2011 Chevrolet HHR 1LT (2.2L/4AT): 24.7 mpg
        2012 Chevrolet Impala LT (3.6/6AT): 29.7 mpg

        Actually, Quentin, you may have made the drive before. I-79 from Morgantown to Charleston, then I-64 to the Huntington Tri-State Airport.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        I would assume that this mileage has been averaged out over several trips, driven at different times of year and times of day?
        The weather is a HUGE determining factor in mileage, which is why Energuide does their testing indoors on a dyno. It’s the only way they can control the weather to make the test fair.
        I used to have a trip that covered 200 miles, there and back. Over the course of 11 years I must have done that trip over 600 times. Using the only accurate method of fuel mileage (top the tank up until it nearly sprays in your face, reset the odometer, drive until nearly on fumes, fill the tank up again until is almost sprays in your face, note the fuel volume and odometer reading – this is your accurate mileage rating): using this method, my Dodge Shadow ES (2.2 turbo) used to get 29 mpg (Canadian gallons, mind) and my ’91 Caprice would get 23 mpg, mostly highway. That was not babying them either. (I would ‘average’ 75 mph on my trips to the city.)
        In the winter, I’d be lucky to get 440 km on a tank of gas, but in the shoulder seasons (no a/c yet), I’d get over 500 km.
        I”d never trust the mileage ratings of trip computers. And I average 3 tanks of gas before I declare a true mileage rating.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        KalapanaBlack – I’ve burnt up many a mile on that route. I went to school in Morgantown, have brothers in Morgantown (now Pittsburgh, too), and I now live in the greater Charleston area. That drive returns right at 22mpg in my 4Runner. My GTI would get 32mpg typically (a hair better than the revised EPA rating).

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack

        Carbiz: I realize my numbers are far from scientific, but the weather was similar in all circumstances. I generally don’t use A/C in vehicles without autoclimate (none of the cars I mentioned have it), and the temperature would have been between 50 and 70 degrees. I vented the sunroof on the Impala for a few miles, and it sprinkled for the last 10-15 miles of the drive in the Charger. Other than that, dry roads and very similar temps. These are all for the trip one-way from my location to Huntington. The return trip seems to have more uphill climbs.

        Quentin: I’m originally from CRW and have transplanted to Morgantown. Came for school and stayed. I hate that drive. Absurdly boring. Thank goodness for Sirius-XM, 3G, and portable music players. I feel old in saying this, but I remember when I didn’t get cell phone reception anywhere on the drive except Flatwoods, sat. radio was extremely rare, and the Morgantown and Charleston radio stations didn’t more or less meet in the middle, as they do now.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Quentin, those Civic results are for the prior generation.

        CR got 19/47/30 city/hwy/combined out of the 28/39 rated 2012.

      • 0 avatar
        steeringwithmyknees

        Although using the “divide miles driven by gallons filled” method of calculating mileage is pretty much always more accurate than relying on the car’s own measurements, it too may not be 100% accurate. On most cars, unless you know for a fact that your speedometer is accurate, you can’t assume your odometer is counting miles accurately – especially if you are running on non-OE wheels or tires.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        How is the Cruze city mileage dreadful at 17 vs the other cars like the Focus in the Civic getting 18? Take the Elantra’s 20 mpg city, and notice that the EPA number is 29 mpg city. Cruze says 22 or 24 mpg city. Who is closer?

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Dan – thanks for the update. I just pulled whatever CR had on the dropdown box in the compare cars section. Often times they don’t have data for all the engine, transmission, and trim combos, which is unfortunate. The Civic’s highway number is shockingly high. Also, I should note that the 3rd figure I show is not combined, but CR’s 150 mi “trip” cycle. I find that number tends to be pretty close to what I get over a whole tank on the vehicles I’ve owned.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        I say dreadful compared to the class leader: the Corolla at 23mpg. The Focus and Civic city numbers are dreadful, too. I was just saying that 17mpg in the city, IMO, is pretty awful for a compact car. I wasn’t intentionally singling the Cruze out for bad city mileage and I apologize. That portion of the post was meant to show that the 1.8L and the 1.4T return really similar performance and gas mileage on CRs tests when things are a little further apart on the EPA test.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        We helped buy a 2011 Elantra this past May for our grand-daughter’s HS grad present. So I have some real-world practical experience here since I’m the only one to fill it up with gas, whenever it needs it.

        The Elantra gets pretty darn good mileage for a car with an automatic that’s driven at >85mph nearly 200-miles round-trip to college and back on US 70 at an altitude of more than 4500-ft. Certainly much better than the Cobalt, Escort and Achieva that had been used on that same route over the years by my wife and our kids attending the same College.

        Given the same circumstances, I seriously doubt that ANY domestic car of that class would even come close to the mpg of the Elantra. Driving styles, altitude, prevailing winds, gas quality, passenger load, tire pressure, etc are all factors that affect actual mpg.

        Maybe the Consumer Watchdog should look with equal zest at the the offerings from the domestic car makers before complaining about the claims of Hyundai. We had a choice and Hyundai clearly gave us the most bang for our buck.

        So, who cares about the 40mpg? Certainly not us. It still gets better mpg than anything else that we’ve owned in that class.

      • 0 avatar
        ppxhbqt

        No, the lower numbers are for the heavier, larger-tired 2012 EX, the higher ones for the 2012 LX, which again I’ll note had simply dreadful braking distances, as long or longer than both F-150′s tested. So performance there certainly isn’t comparable, though the Focus didn’t do a whole lot better. The EX’s dry distances were much better, but wet was still 153 feet, vs 151 for the Focus and 139 for the Elantra.

      • 0 avatar
        Sketch

        My question would be: why does CR get such crappy city mileage? Are they purposely driving the cars badly to see how poorly they do under harsh conditions? I have a hard time believing any vehicle that takes nearly 10 seconds to reach 60 mph can get 18mpg if it’s not spending it’s entire life at WOT.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    well here’s an observation. If you logon to consumer reports (account required) and do a comparison between the Elantra, Corolla, and Focus you’ll see the elantra gets the lowest mpg in CRs tests while having the highest EPA mpg ratings.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    I would take them more serious if they had performed tests. But they just use numbers that random strangers enter on a website?

    the TTAC readers for the most part know how to properly track mileage and 6.7% is not so bad considering driving habits easily let mileage swing by 20%. but most people don’t even know what mileage even means.

    I don’t think Hyundai or most manufacturers would fudge the numbers more than the allowed test variables allow. Unless someone actually tests. What they do is not testing, but making a claim to enforce a test.

    It is a shame that the EPA doesn’t test. couldn’t the manufacturer be required to have the EPA test and pay them a $10K (or whatever it cost to test) to the EPA? the EPA then also would have to buy a regular vehicle of that type from a random dealer to prevent “specially tuned cars”. similar how CR tests cars.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      You make some valid points. But that fuelly website (which I use) was also used for the CRZ comparison. Also look at the data other posters have made from CR and Car and Driver which all reach the same conclusion.

      This issue was mentioned on TTAC in September : http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/fuel-economy-fudge-gate-an-update/
      where it was assumed that Hyundai was being complained about by Ford.
      It will be interesting to see how this plays out. With either Hyundai being vindicated and going onto greater success or them being found to have manipulated data and causing a major PR flap.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      “…most people don’t even know what mileage means…”

      Yes. I notice that people will think they are getting better mileage in a large car because they can go a greater number of miles per tank. It’s like they don’t even realize that one tank is bigger than the other. This is why I always laugh when I see those Jeep commercials where they advertise 500 miles per tank and then only say in small print 15/22 or whatever the rating is.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      Legally speaking, if Hyundai achieved the mileage ONCE out of 1,000 attempts, then they are in a good legal position. You know the old saying: Downhill, with a tail wind, a teaspoon of fuel in the tank and Twiggy driving.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    It is really surprising that the industry self tests MPG. I think everyone here makes good points so far. Tall gearing will give you that great highway number but is irrelevant for most daily drivers in the real world. Also California having some of the worst traffic in the country makes me wonder if real world mpg is worse in the major cities anyway.

    Speaking from experience, my Elantra (last gen – 2008) hits 33 mpg every tank, and that is combined. The maximum mileage achieved was 40 mpg on a tank used driving across Nebraska non stop, well above the rated highway mileage. The only highway miles I see are during rush hour. That is better than it ‘should’ be, but it’s a 5 speed and I’m easy on it.

    I think it’s valid that, as mentioned above, the Corolla gets better real world mixed driving even with its aging 4 speed than many ’40 mpg’ cars. All the latest cars are made to hit that magical highway rating instead of being engineered for real world driving.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Jack, your characterization of the Southern Poverty Law Center as having a “progressive agenda” is not only imprecise as a description, but also unfair because it implies some sinister agenda. SPLC has for years been prominent in exposing voting rights abuses, Neo-Nazi activity, domestic terrorism and other forms of undemocratic violence. Can’t we leave this kind of inuendo out of our talk about cars?

    • 0 avatar
      wallaka

      +1. If a “progressive agenda” means legal representation for those too poor to afford it, and being staunchly against vote suppression and racism, sign me up.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      You mean the SPLC where the top 3 executives were pulling about $750,000 in salaries a few years ago?

      You mean the SPLCs Julian Bond who said
      “The Republican Party’s idea of equal rights is the American flag and the Confederate swastika (sic.) flying side by side?”

      • 0 avatar
        LectroByte

        Julian got’s a good point there. And not sure about the salary bit, either, I’ve heard that a lot from the echo chamber, but some folks claim it’s not true, but even if it is, so what? The SPLC is doing some good things here in the South.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Jeff,

      I didn’t say “liberal agenda”. I said “progressive agenda”. :)

      The SPLC unilaterally focuses its efforts towards groups perceived to be on the right wing of the political divide. I’m not trying to slander or criticize them.

      My apologies for any offense.

      Note that “The Blaze”, a site which promotes awareness of issues pertaining to the GLBT community, calls SPLC

      “The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit progressive civil rights watchdog organization,”

      and notes that the SPLC refuses to call Muslim organizations out on anti-gay behavior.

    • 0 avatar

      SPLC’s primary agenda seems to be supporting the rather lavish lifestyle of Morris Dees.

      http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=DS&Dato=20100325&Kategori=LIFESTYLE04&Lopenr=3250804&Ref=PH

      It’s my perception that SPLC is blind to the racism and anti-semitism of those it considers its political allies.

  • avatar

    Hyundai may be growing and all, and that consumer watch group may be shady and all, but, but, but…

    Hyundai must watch its tongue. Here in Brazil, they announced the Veloster had 140hp, but now all rags and sites are ablaze with dismayed owners who are claiming and proving their cars have only around 126-128hp. Besides that they make other preposterous claims in their propaganda such as that their cars have 8 airbags, whereas others can only find 4 or 6. They have a ridiculous piece on the airways nowadays claiming the Elantra is the best car ever produced in the history of the world. And on it goes.

    Sigh.

    Itake any and everything coming from HyunKia with more than just one grain of salt.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      ere in Brazil, they announced the Veloster had 140hp, but now all rags and sites are ablaze with dismayed owners who are claiming and proving their cars have only around 126-128hp.

      Actually, wouldn’t a 140hp motor register about 126-128hp at the wheels on a dyno?

      • 0 avatar

        On the dyno the 126 trnslates to just a little over 105. I was just citing the official numbers.

        so yes, the 140 would fall to about 127ish at the wheels.

        Curiously the same car is sold in Chile and Argentina and in those places they announce the lower figure.

        The fact is they have a direct injection unit that produces 140 hp and is sold in NA, Asia and Europe. And the non direct injection (sold until a couple months ago in NA and Europe – I believe) engine is sold in the “struggling” world. The problem is that they don’t own up to it.

        Maybe Hyundai worldwide promised the 140 equipped car. Fact is we are getting the weaker mill. Unfortunately, Hyundai Brazil is not being forthright about it. And therein lies the problem.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    I laughed my a$$ of in 2001 when Hyundai was sued for lying about their horsepower numbers (interestingly, when the SAE discovered that Toyota and Honda were doing the same thing in 2006, there was hardly a peep from the motoring public). I mean, who bought a Hyundai for its horsepower? Back in 2000/2001, people were still ecstatic when their Hyundai started in the morning!
    But Hyundai is no stranger to stretching the truth: that is why Nader’s allegations would concern me, plus the fact that Hyundai does wrap itself in the ‘gee, shucks, we’re a green company and don’t make gas guzzling SUVs and pickups like those bad companies from Detroit” flag in their advertising claims.
    I find it shocking that the EPA would trust ANYBODY’S figures.

    Perhaps Americans should drift over to Canada’s Energuide ratings site. Although they, too, are somewhat mythical, at least the government does the testing and not some marketing elf in Korea who is high on crystal. The criticism aimed at Energuide is that their tests are done on a dyno, but in 2008 they modified their process and the numbers are a bit more realistic than they were. The important thing to note with Energuide is that from a scientific point of view, the testing process is fair and consistent amongst all vehicles, something that would be virtually impossible to achieve on a test track.
    I’m no fan of Nader, but if Hyundai has come under his scrutiny (which currently walks on water with the automotive press), then I would guess there is more to this than we know just yet.

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      > Nader’s allegations

      Former Nadar associate’s allegations

      > I’m no fan of Nader

      Are you a fan of his former associates?

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      They redid the SAE regulation in 2005 to largely use testing methodology used by the domestics but technically the Toyota and Honda numbers were “correct” by the older SAE regulations which let you optimize conditions a lot more during testing.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The EPA does stipulate the procedure to test for MPG and emissions on a Dyno. Of course they don’t oversee the testing just provide the specs.

  • avatar
    Robert Fahey

    I know nothing about the organization in question, but I do know this:

    We MUST look askance at anyone claiming to be a safety watchdog. Why? Because the biggest names in watchdogging have proven so inaccurate, and so pretzeled with the plaintiffs’ bar, it begs the question of whether this species of dog should be quarantined on some Pacific island.

    Attorney Ralph Nader: A career launched on a fallacy. Separate tests by the US Government and Texas A&M proved the Corvair handled at least as well as its competition at the time. But by then it was too late. We can thank Nader for things as elemental as the NHTSA and the Lemon Law, but his disciple Dogs have become increasingly useless with each generation.

    Attorney Joan Claybrook: Worked alongside Nader. Headed the NHTSA under Carter. Headed Public Citizen. All notable. But she’s also the very incarnation of the safety nanny. She pushed the idea of a motorcycle with side-arm wheels (Google Joan Claybrook motorcycle) and gave birth to the 85-mph speedometer as an attempt to discourage speeding and save fuel. She meant well. Safety nannies always do.

    Clarence Ditlow: Repeat gold medalist in the Hype Olympics. Heads the Center for Auto Safety, a Nader creation. Cheerleaded the Audi acceleration farce of the 1980s and the infamously rigged Silverado crash test on Dateline NBC. Told CNN last year that a Toyota technical service bulletin from 2002 was a secret document, and the station believed him. Reporters heart safety advocates, you know.

    Sean Kane: Graduated from Ditlow’s organization and formed his own for-profit watchdoggery company. Funded by plaintiffs’ attorneys. Doesn’t like to talk about it. Neither do reporters. Remember, they heart safety advocates.

    And so there’s the Dog hall of fame. We must hit the mute button on the very people who claim to save our asses from evil automakers and other hobgoblins. They cry wolf, bark up the wrong tree and bark out their asses. But they never admit when they’re wrong. There’s too much ka-ching at stake in the lawsuits that always seen to accompany their side shows.

    • 0 avatar
      chaparral

      The ’64-on Corvair was shown by the Aggies to handle as well as any passenger car of its day. The ’60-63 cars, the subject of the first chapter of Unsafe At Any Speed, didn’t. Nader, and whoever he talked to about the vehicle dynamics, got them absolutely right in chapter 1 – try to find a mistake in it.

      A high-pivot swing axle, with an ineffective droop travel limiter, will have progressively less and less roll resistance and will jack the car up during cornering. A couple quick drawings will show that as will watching any video involving one of these cars.

    • 0 avatar
      docrock

      Show me the money! Just follow the trails from the trials and count all the tens . . .

  • avatar
    mcs

    Hyundai responded to the complaint. Here’s a USA Today article with their response.

    I think the real issue is that despite all of the “your mileage may vary” statements, consumers place way too much faith in the accuracy of the epa ratings. Even worse, is the faith in the accuracy of the calibration of the shutoff mechanisms in gas pumps. Consumers seem to think these devices are precision calibrated lab instruments. Other factors are the orientation (level) of the car when filling along with the characteristics of a particular cars fuel fill path in various positions along with temperature and other factors. In other words, the fuel pump click-off method of measuring mileage isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      Thanks for posting this link. I think their response is pretty standard: “see this is normal, none of the 40 mpg perform that well.”

      If anything I think their response is proof that we need the EPA to test vehicles themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        If anything I think their response is proof that we need the EPA to test vehicles themselves.
        True. I’d also like to see the EPA mandate accurate fuel consumption meters when they are included on a vehicle. I think that’s the best hope for consumers to determine their own mileage. I’m definitely not a fan of the “gas pump” method of determining gas mileage. It’s way too error prone in my opinion.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        I fill up everytime and use the gas pump method. It’s been pretty consistant, almost always comes out to 33.7. The fact that it is higher than it ‘should’ be just reinforces my belief that driving style makes a huge difference. I wonder how many people just drive however they want and expect their “40 mpg” car to get great mileage.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Measuring error by the gas pump method shrinks to near zero if you average a couple consecutive tanks.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        +1

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Oh, come on. Over the long haul, you can’t go too far wrong obeying the principle of conservation of mass. Sure, you might leave a different amount of air in the filler neck from fillup to fillup, but in the end you’re buying x gallons and driving y miles. It doesn’t get any simpler – unless you’re routinely buying gas from one of the handful of miscalibrated stations out there. (Shout-out to the BP in LeClaire, IA! Their pumps routinely used to put 21 “gallons” in my 20-gallon tank.)

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        And in the long run (say, over a year) you’re going to eventually end up with an average figure that is pretty much a full tank, plus some filler neck. The only variable is that you have to make sure you fill up the tank the same way each time. My personal method is to not hang the nozzle until the auto-shutoff clicks for the third time. And 85% of my fuel buying is at the same three stations.

  • avatar
    strafer

    I’ve been checking on Elantra owners’ forum for real world mpg from real owners, and seems Elantra’s mpg is sensitive to break-in.
    Perhaps these mpg tests should be done on cars after the first oil change.

  • avatar
    jeremie

    I had assumed that testing was performed by an independent party (the EPA)using using standardized methods in a controlled environment.

  • avatar
    Prado

    When I test drove an Elantra a few months ago, I was suprised that on a rather small incline at highway speeds (65 to 70) that the car had to downshift to 5th to mantain the speed. The EPA test doesn’t include speeds this high. Mystery solved. It’s the test that needs fixing.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    To understand this action by “Consumer Watchdog” we ought to drop back a couple of weeks to this post:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/uaw-backs-off-transplant-organizing-goal-attacks-hyundai/

    It may have seemed a mystery at the time why Hyundai dealers were being picketed, but now it ought to make more sense: the UAW action was the signal for the Left to begin the demonization of Hyundai.

    (Over the years, signals like this by the parasitic, statist coalition have come come in various ways — sometimes from an article in the NYT, sometimes from an Administration spokesman, or from political operatives like Lehane, Fabiani, or Axelrod, and sometimes from sock puppets at universities, NGOs, or at major conferences.)

    What’s next? If the pattern holds, the attacks will come from multiple directions. The Ecofraud wing will strike with pseudo-concerns about the environment. Unions — with the “fair trade” movement they ginned up at US colleges — will discover unfair labor practices in far corners of the earth. Jesse Jackson and/or his ilk will reveal racist employment practices. Ray DaHood will come up with something. CBS/NBC/ABC/CNN news announcers, along with AP and Reuters, will be cranking out hit pieces from Democratic Party talking points lists.

  • avatar
    carguy949

    Some car makers also do their own crash testing and submit results to IIHS. Imagine the PR and liability nightmare if those turn out to be fudged.

    • 0 avatar
      faygo

      _all_ automakers do their own crash testing. or pay someone else in the industry to do it for them, people like Tesla/Fisker/Lotus probably don’t have the money to have their own dedicated crash test facilities.

      the manufacturer tests to prove that the computer simulations are accurate and to test things they cannot simulate (good enough). they test to NHTSA and Euro NCAP in order to meet the legal requirements in place and score the best on the various star-based criteria.

      they also test for IIHS’s tests, keeping in mind that IIHS is 100% non-governmental and purely a marketing exercise. added content may be included specifically to meet IIHS’s desires, but there is no liability connetion between anything IIHS does an the automakers. it would indeed be bad PR tho.

      the EPA doesn’t have the test capacity to test every car for MPG figures, so relies on an agreed protocol at the automaker’s testing labs for most vehicles. as was noted by Jack, fudging those results is a serious no-no and would get you into lots of trouble. however, tuning an engine or transmission (especially with dual-clutch systems) in order to maximize mileage in the test cycle is 100% to be expected. I also seem to recall the dual-clutch trans in the Veloster being panned by everyone who’s driven it, perhaps it’s optimized for economy in such a way that it cannot deliver an enjoyable driving experience.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Some consistency here would be nice. When right-wingers target the Volt, they are described here as an “ethics group”, with no investigation or commentary about who is doing the investigating. But when lefties target Hyundai, much is done to label them as lefties (who presumably are evil, hate cars, eat babies, etc.)

    To answer the question of who is making the claim, here you go: http://www2.guidestar.org/PartnerReport.aspx?Partner=foundationsource&ein=95-3993720 Non profit filings are a matter of public record, so the information is easily found. Just glancing at the last few years of financials, the foundation’s primary activity is paying legal fees to Harvey Rosenfeld, who is known for Proposition 103, an initiative that reformed how car insurance premiums are underwritten in California.

    As for doubts about Hyundai or anyone else, the answer is simple — have the EPA test the cars. If memory serves, the EPA tests about one of every six cars itself, so it shouldn’t be tough to figure out whether there is a problem.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    This is all so silly. The test itself is utterly artificial, and I have no doubt that manufacturers “teach to the test” in every single way they can get away with. And as the mpg numbers get bigger, the differences become less and less important. A 2mpg difference is HUGE when you are talking 10mpg vs. 12mpg, but 38mpg vs. 40mpg is darned near rounding error.

    As for on board computer figured mileage, assuming you are operating the computer properly, in my experience they are pretty much spot on in modern cars. Fill the tank, reset the meter, drive a full tank. The engine computer knows exactly how much fuel it has injected, and how far the car has traveled. For my current and previous cars, the readout was always within .5mpg +/- of hand calculating it.

    • 0 avatar
      marjanmm

      “A 2mpg difference is HUGE when you are talking 10mpg vs. 12mpg, but 38mpg vs. 40mpg is darned near rounding error.”

      This is why the consumption per distance travelled is far superior to mpg. Mpg promotes thinking that 2mpg different is the same everywhere. To illustrate the difference:

      23.5 l/100km vs. 19.6 l/100km in case of 10mpg to 12mpg which is a very big difference in consumption, say 600 euro per 10,000km (average yearly mileage over here).

      6.1 l/100km vs. 5.8 l/100km in case of 38mpg to 40mpg which is negligible and in Europe nobody ever buys a car based primarily on such difference as the savings is only 50 euro per 10,000km

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Hmmm, a group associated with Nader?

    I wonder of the “reporter” got a D- or an F+ in math and basic sciences?

    There’s reasons these losers go into law…and it isn’t because of verbal brillaince.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My 2001 Elantra just completed two round trips across Pennsylvania, and got 34 mpg on both trips, covering nearly 1200 miles. This include driving through the Allegheny Mountains, and carrying 4 occupants. It has 167k miles and a 4-spd automatic. It’s a fairly beat car, but I’m hoping to get a couple more years out of it.

    So I don’t think Hyundai’s 40 mg claim is crazy, given the 2011 Elantra is more aerodynamic, has a 6-spd auto, and direct injection.

    The key is to drive the speed limit and never floor the accelerator.

    I’ve read reviews of Sonatas where journalists were getting 40+ mpg, so certainly the Elantra can do it.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Ronnie Schreiber and Jack Baruth: I don’t think Dees’s home looks so lavish. Does have some style maybe. Ron, maybe you would find him more authentic if he lived in a dump? And Jack, nice of you to apologize, though certainly not necessary. If we could only get away from these labels, maybe we could elevate the conversation a bit and eliminate some of the vitriol.

    • 0 avatar

      No, not lavish at all. No doubt one of the 99%.

      I don’t begrudge people for their wealth. I do have a problem with people running non-profits supposedly for the benefit of poor folks (it is, after all, the Southern Poverty Law Center) that take home six and seven figure salaries. For example, Yehiel Eckstein runs a charity that helps impoverished Russian Jews, and they indeed help keep people from starving, but Eckstein has made millions in salaries. He could live on half a million a year just fine and put the other $200-300K he makes into food for the hungry. The same with Dees. Though I will say that the money he’s spent on his house and pool probably has done more to alleviate poverty by putting money into the hands of tradesmen, business people and their employees than anything he’s done at the SPLC.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Ronnie – I don`t know the particular’s of who runs the SPLC but you seem to be saying that if someone is running (CEO or whatever title) an organisation dedicated to “progressive” aims then they should live modest, average or even impoverished lives. Whereas if someone runs an organisation dedicated to “right wing” aims (say Club for Growth or something similar) then they are allowed to live how they wish to. Is that balanced? I would have thought as a free marketer and general anti-big Government sort how this person lives is irrelevant.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        I have to figure out how to turn my business into a non-profit! No property taxes, and just turn any profits into salary. All my travels could be educational (or community organizing). As a bonus some people will actually think I am doing some good instead of being a greedy profiteer.

        Nice gig. Wish I had thought of it years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        No property taxes

        Property tax exemptions are a state and local matter. Not all states exempt non-profits from property taxes.

        My favorite non-profit is the NFL. It’s not often that the head of a non-profit gets to make almost $10 million per year.

      • 0 avatar

        you seem to be saying that if someone is running (CEO or whatever title) an organisation dedicated to “progressive” aims then they should live modest, average or even impoverished lives.

        How do you get from me saying that someone running a charity can probably get by on $500,000 a year to saying they should live “modest, average, or even impoverished lives”? Perhaps in your circles a half million dollars a year is a modest salary.

        I would have thought as a free marketer and general anti-big Government sort how this person lives is irrelevant.

        Which is why I said that I don’t begrudge someone their wealth. I just think that it’s inappropriate for people to solicit contributions that supposedly are going to charity when in fact much of those contributions are going to their own salary.

        I don’t think it’s wrong to point out when someone has managed to create a lucrative sinecure in the non-profit sector. That has nothing to do with either free market or collectivist ideologies.

        I think organizations like Forgotten Harvest do more to help the poor than the SPLC.
        http://www.forgottenharvest.org/

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Why the Elantra? Strategy dictates that it is an easy target. Not domestic, volume car, lots of anecdotal sentiment, few third-party supporting tests, and most important of all… a company that played the mpg hand quite strongly. Sure, there’s lots of machinations behind the scene, but if I were to raise a stink that would be the one that has the bullseye on it.

    Cruze – Domestic, don’t touch that
    Civic – MPG wasn’t hit s hard for its sales campaign
    Civic Hybrid – Not volume
    Corolla – Nobody cares.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      You might be seeing too much of a conspiracy here. You are right Hyundai is being targeted because they have made being “green” such a big thing for all their vehicles. Honda and Toyota seem to in the real world get close to their figures. GM has a mixed record, some vehicles like the Equinox don`t get close but others do. As for GM being domestic, Nader wasn`t afraid to target them in the past.

    • 0 avatar
      Mullholland

      I believe the Elantra is a domestically produced vehicle—made just outside of Montgomery Alabama.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I can confirm that the 2011 Elantra does not get it’s advertised mileage. My buddy bought a 2011 new with 3 miles on the clock. It now has 43K miles so is fully broken in. It’s a base with optional 6 speed automatic and option package with alloys, interior trim and USB/Bluetooth. He has tracked the mileage faithfully and has only every touched 40 going 55 MPH using non ethanol gas with low wind sunny day and straight level roads. Any other situation such as driving 70 plus MPH, high winds, lower temps, curvy roads etc drags the MPG down to around 35-36 if he’s lucky. City driving is way off and drops to as low as 22. He has never seen 29 in the city.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      Cleanmpg.com got different results when they did their steady speed cruise control testing, using gas with ethanol:

      70 mph 39.1 mpg
      65 mph 44.3 mpg
      60 mph 46.9 mpg
      55 mph 51.0 mpg
      50 mph 54.0 mpg

      http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-41115.html

      Perhaps there is something wrong with your buddy’s car?.. Have him check the alignment and tire pressure.

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    Wait, what? People don’t trust the car mpg computers?

    So there’s a computer in my car that opens the fuel injectors for a time in the range of milliseconds or less. During this time, fuel is injected into the cylinder. It is known how much fuel comes out of the injector per millisecond. This computer also knows how many times the driveshaft has rotated. These two numbers yield the in car mpg. Where, praytell, is the innaccuracy? In the tire outside diameter? In the lack of knowledge about amount of fuel injected? This is less accurate than the back pressure in a random gas pump that shuts off the pump?

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      You’re missing the part where an engineering team, with help from their marketing friends, get to program how this data is used to create a display of realtime and average fuel economy. Like any other statistics, these can be arranged to show the positive side of the result.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      This technology is well known and used in aviation where accurate fuel usage readings are critical. A transducer in the fuel supply line measures how much fuel was used. In airplanes it’s gallons per hour that’s key, so consumption and the time are the only measurements needed, but in a car how hard would it be to use that consumption measurement with the actual miles travelled (per the GPS if the car is so equipped, if not a basic GPS chip is dirt cheap nowadays) so that actual miles and actual gallons are computed, and tire size, etc are not factors?

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Every fuel computer I’ve encountered tends to run about 2 mpg too high. I’ve tracked my mileage very carefully over 10 years of ownership on 2 vehicles so any errors would have averaged out for sure. Granted 2 mpg is not much, but the computer appears to be erring on the generous side.

      This is one of the areas where Consumer Reports and Fuelly or other sites is really your best source of information. I never seen the mpg the EPA claims my V8 Dakota should make, but I have often wondered if they tested BOTH available rear-end gear ratios.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        @JMII :

        “I never seen the mpg the EPA claims my V8 Dakota should make, but I have often wondered if they tested BOTH available rear-end gear ratios.”

        the EPA/CAFE rules are such that for rating purposes, if an option is not more than 33% of production, it does not count as part of the base vehicle configuration on which the mpg label is based.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Who cares? not I.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Actually I care, if only for the free market exchange of quantifiable data. The Elantra is an EPA rated midsize car that posts mpg that was previously in the sub-compact territory…. In fact suddenly you have lots of manufacturers posting improved mpg numbers, yet the size of the cars isn’t going down and displacement is going up. It’s good for the consumer so that we don’t go on with a dog and pony show about mileage numbers… I for one want economy, but would prefer to buy a car that is appropriately geared for real world use, not one where the gear ratios are spaced to achieve an EPA number.

  • avatar
    Oren Weizman

    I broker for several brands and I can tell you that usually EPA numbers are pretty on the spot with companies like Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Nissan and even a few Volks and Buicks.

    The pissing contest between Ford and Hyundai over mileage is dumb and the credibility is gone when it comes to mileage between these two companies.

  • avatar
    bd2

    This is so stupid.

    Even on fuelly.com (hardly scientific) – a good no. of Elantra owners get the EPA rating or better, which means that other factors come into play (local traffic patterns, local terrain, individual driving habits, amount of ethanol in fuel, etc.).

    I hope this former associate of Nader has a lot of time on his hands since there are plenty of other models, such as the Equinox and Juke, which have gotten plenty of complaints as well.

    Heck, there’s even been a class action lawsuit over the fuel economy on the Civic hybrid.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    You know what it means that a consumer watchdog group has time to focus on the mildly overstated MPG claims of a family sedan?

    It means that nobody is making ass-engined family sedans with snap-oversteer.

    This is a sad day indeed.

  • avatar
    seabrjim

    Dont forget to ask Morris Dees about his cute stepdaughter. He should be in jail-you or I would be!

  • avatar
    mad_science

    Their mileage claims are based on their performance on the EPA test, and nothing but. If you grab a half-dozen Hyundais and run the against he EPA standard test method, you’ll have your answer.

    Real world performance is irrelevant to the ethics of the question. One could make the observation that Hyundais regularly underperform the EPA results by a larger argument than other similarly rated cars, but that doesn’t mean Hyundai’s lying about their EPA numbers, it just means they engineered to beat the test. Fuel-conscious consumers are likely to check a site like fuelly and likely to decide against it if that’s the case.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Shouldn’t they be spending more time tracking down illegal chemical off-gassing from products made in china?

    Or something useful, most non-car people I know take the EPA estimates with a grain of salt and expect to get less than the sticker. They just use them as ballpark figures, ie is it good on gas or not.

    They generally compare 27mpg to 37mpg and expect to see a decent difference, but 37mpg to 40 mpg most just shrug their shoulders.

    Now this doesn’t mean all non-car people do this, just the ones I know which makes my evidence anecdotal at best.

    Considering the types of things Nader has been involved in in the past 20 years or so, I’m not sure I trust anyone associated with him.

  • avatar
    galloping_gael

    Interesting piece, and not too farfetched to speculate that Hyundai is being targeted for its deep, quiet pockets. Also not farfetched to speculate that “Consumer Watchdog” is being funded by groups sympathetic to the UAW. However, absolutely unnecessary to use the wingnut hot button code “Like the Southern Poverty Law Center and Operation PUSH,” ensuring that the comments would deviate into trolling nonsense.

    Now Murilee’s Mazda basement thingie – that rocked!

  • avatar
    timasaurus

    What a dope I am! I bought one of these cars, and I’m not getting anything close to the advertised MPG’s – it doesn’t seem to matter how I drive, I’m getting 17 to 22 MPG – all the time! The poor mileage far outweighs all the good that’s in this car, and there’s a lot to like, but the main reason I bought this car was for the MPG – and yes, I was trying to be realistic about it and in my mind had already decided I would probably not get any better than 35 MPG, but now I’m wishing I had spent the extra money and just gotten a Prius. Hyundai, I want my money back!

  • avatar
    gary777g

    Recently I drove a 2013 Elantra from Grand Junction, CO to Salt Lake City, UT and back averaging 42 mpg. I went the speed limit for the most part and had the Active Eco button pressed.


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