Hyundai and Kia Fined Again for Nearly $300M For Overstated Gas Mileage

Lack of Corporate Integrity for Kia and Hyundai? The Impact to Personal Finances?

Deja vu for Kia and Hyundia: It was almost 2 years ago to the date, of the announcement that Hyundai and Kia overstated gas mileage ratings for over 900,000 autos sold since late 2010 and into 2012. Today, on election eve November 3, 2014, the U.S. Justice Department said they overstated the ratings for 1.2 million vehicles, so they fined them $100 million, and forfeited an estimated $200 million in greenhouse gas emission credits.

The Wall Street Journal reports that last year they agreed to settle a $400 million class-action suit over its mileage claims and paid owners an average of approximately $353 each. This has costs Hyundai and Kia more than $700 million.

You may recall their commercials advertising a lot of 40 mpg models a few years ago. The South Korean company’s explanation for the erroneous estimate was due to  “procedural errors” in their testing and not an intent to defraud.

Under the prior agreement, to help offset the increased cost of gasoline consumed by the affected automobiles, Hyundai/Kia paid people for their extra gas consumed, plus 15%. Although Kia and Hyundai owners who wrote me say this didn’t offset all of their gasoline costs for the time they owned, and planned to own their cars or SUVs. The website for the prior settlement, provided a place for them to see if they qualified and to get an estimated settlement amount at A full-page announcement in the Wall Street Journal 2 years ago, further indicated that you must go to a local dealer to verify your odometer reading, and arrange for a debit card to be sent to you.

I’m not sure if there is going to be any additional amounts for vehicle owners. I will update this article if a new arrangement is made.

Many informed car consumers do a lot of research before purchasing. Miles per gallon is a huge factor in their annual cost of auto-ownership. When corporations over-estimate gas mileage, they lead people to purchase cars they might not have. This directly affects people’s monthly budgets, where for some people every penny counts. Kia and Hyundai aren’t the only car manufacturers to be found guilty of this, Ford settled with owners mid-2014, for some vehicles for over $1,000 per unit.

Miles per gallon ratings have historically been inaccurate, that’s why in 2008 the EPA changed the way vehicles were tested to include things like acceleration, different weather conditions and air-conditioning use. The new system is not perfect, but it’s much closer to reality than the numbers manufacturers used to get away with publishing. Still the only way to get a real-world estimate is to read automobile publications like Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Autoweek and Automobile. I enjoy reading these periodicals because they do road tests in real-life conditions. In reality their tests push cars harder than the average person does, since they try to find the outside envelope of a vehicle’s performance. This worst case scenario is helpful, but some magazines have a test loop mpg to compare to their hard-driving mpg numbers to the government rating. Autoweek has a weekly TV show on PBS and carried by other networks too. I set my DVR, so that I can stay somewhat in tune with the goings on in the automotive world- I’m a car guy and I find this interesting.

If you are affected, please let me know. I would be curious what your reimbursement amount was the first time, for what they said was an average 3% less in gas mileage. Let me know too if you are contacted directly by Kia or Hyundai about this latest news.

At eFinPLAN we discuss constantly the need to make financial plans, and execute them well giving close consideration to major purchases, like for automobiles. If you are due money from the original settlement, or the class action case, look into getting money that might be owed to you. If you receive it, it won’t be a huge windfall, but you may want to set it aside in savings for future repairs or maintenance. It might come in handy when it’s time for new tires, or for more costly things like timing belt replacements.