Hyundai and Kia being called on the carpet for inflated fuel economy claims is a great story for a slow Friday; everybody likes to see a rising star get taken down a notch, and the two Koreans have been the Cinderella story of the auto industry for the last couple of years.
Small wonder then, that in 2010, TTAC reported on some suspect fuel economy figures over in Detroit, similar to what happened with Hyundai/Kia. And nothing was ever done about it.
TTAC examined the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Chevrolet Equinox back in February, 2010. A survey of various road tests (including the vaunted Consumer Reports test) revealed that the Equinox was far from achieving its stated 32 mpg highway rating. The results ranged from 18-25 mpg, far from the advertised figures. That’s anywhere from 22-43 percent lower than Chevrolet’s claims.
In the case of the Fusion Hybrid, the claimed 39 mpg didn’t materialize; most outlets returned 34 mpg. In both cases, the results returned were similar to their competitors, but not close to their stated ratings.
In light of all that, it’s worth asking, why Hyundai/Kia and why now? And why not GM and Ford in 2010? The official line is that the EPA decided to re-test those vehicles as part of their annual campaign to randomly test 15 percent of cars for fuel economy accuracy. The process supposedly validates the self-reporting process for automakers, though they made a point of stating the magnitude of the Hyundai snafu.
The EPA’s auditing of mileage claims by automakers rarely uncovers misrepresentations. It has happened only twice since 2000, the EPA says.
But this is the “first time where a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer have deviated so significantly,” the agency said.
Compared to the discrepancies at Hyundai (1-3 mpg on average), the missing mpgs for the Equinox are a big deal. The Equinox is a volume product for GM, one of the best-selling crossovers in the segment, and one of its selling points is its superior fuel economy. Why wasn’t anything done about it? I’ll turn it over to Paul Niedermeyer, author of the Equinox piece, to explain
Conspiracy theories are not exactly our preferred fall-back explanation, but it really is rather curious that these two particular cars (Equinox, Fusion Hybrid) are both being heavily advertised (despite the Fusion hybrid’s limited availability) as symbols of American auto manufacturer’s ability to deliver class-leading fuel efficient vehicles. And they carry that EPA stamp of approval. Yet neither of them delivers; in fact the Equinox actually underperforms its peers.
Keep in mind that the EPA tests are not actually performed by the EPA, but by the manufacturers themselves, with a small percentage of cars potentially retested by the EPA. Have they retested the Equinox or the Fusion Hybrid? And if they fell short, would we actually ever hear about it?