Of Penalties And Priorities

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

Yesterday’s announcement of record fines for Hyundai and Kia regarding their incorrect fuel economy claims is the strongest message yet that the Department of Justice ” firm commitment to safeguarding American consumers, ensuring fairness in every marketplace, protecting the environment, and relentlessly pursuing companies that make misrepresentations and violate the law.” But if your cars kill scores of people due to neglience, you’re getting off easy.

As Ryan Beene of Automotive News reports

“…Hyundai and Kia will pay a $100 million civil penalty, spend $50 million to establish an independent fuel economy certification group and forfeit some 4.75 million greenhouse gas emission credits the companies have banked under the EPA’s tailpipe emissions regulations — estimated to be worth more than $200 million, according to a joint statement by the Justice Department and EPA.”

All totaled, up, that’s about $350 million worth of penalties. GM paid about one-tenth of that in relation to federal safety law violations stemming from the now-infamous Chevrolet Cobalt ignition switch deaths.

The penalties in the Hyundai/Kia case come despite Hyundai’s voluntary reimbursement program for owners of the affected vehicles. Hyundai/Kia aren’t the only ones to have enacted such a program either. Ford set up a similar program for owners of the C-Max and Fusion, but hasn’t been fined by the EPA for similar misstatement of fuel economy numbers.

Maybe we ought to revisit the way we test for fuel economy figures altogether?

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Stuki Stuki on Nov 05, 2014

    "... firm commitment to ....." get our mediocre faces on TV and in other media, so that stupid little us can be famous too!!!! And generations of semi literate indoctrinates can cheer for us as we rob people to fund our pensions. Like any good government agency.

  • Conslaw Conslaw on Nov 05, 2014

    What were the problems in Hyundai's methodology for determining MPG that justified the fine? I heard all about Ford using the Fusion's test data to rate the C-Max, but I don't know what Hyundai did wrong. Ford probably wasn't fined because the rules (arguably) allowed using the figures from vehicles with the same weight and powertrain. (Ethically, Ford isn't off the hook because it knew that the C-Max had a significantly higher drag coefficient than the Fusion.) I'm a happy C-Max owner. Ford's checks made 2 of my first 16 car payments. I still get 42-44 MPG.

    • See 5 previous
    • Exfordtech Exfordtech on Nov 07, 2014

      @pragmatic I just don't think the demand for manuals is strong enough for most automakers to dedicate the necessary investment. As to the emissions regs, it's not just the cost of the test itself but the cost (and probably of more importance the time) of designing the PCM calibration that passes that test. As for why the automakers that do offer manuals restrict them by color or option package I would imagine there isn't enough money in it for them to do otherwise. I have nothing against manuals myself, have owned several, but unfortunately I think they are approaching extinction in the U.S.

  • Dr_outback Dr_outback on Nov 05, 2014

    I use the fuelly.com site for owner fuel mileage experience. It has believable fuel economy ratings.

    • Brian P Brian P on Nov 05, 2014

      It stinks when there are multiple engine choices, though. It seems like a lot of the users have no idea what is under the hood of their own cars. There's no way to distinguish between, say, 1.6 and 2.0 litre engines. They don't apply any plausibility checks, e.g. "enter trim level - now here is the list of available engines on that trim level, select which one you have".

  • SOneThreeCoupe SOneThreeCoupe on Nov 06, 2014

    This is a civil matter, not a government matter. If people were lied to, and had monetary loss due to that lie, they should have sued in civil court. Part of the purpose of the DoJ is to provide a framework in which wrongs can be righted, without lining the pockets of government itself. Here's the way to test emissions and fuel efficiency: let the manufacturers make the numbers. They're not going to fudge numbers that aren't possible because no one will trust them, or they'll get sued. My next vehicle will be purchased on a combination of Fuelly numbers, private reviews and industry reviews.