Published December 09. 2012 4:00AM
Not that long ago Hyundai and Kia autos were considered tin cans with wheels by many Americans.
Over the past 10 years the South Korean sister companies made vast improvements in their vehicles and gained the respect of critics and car buyers.
But with the admission in early November that fuel economy estimates that the companies advertised were overstated, Kia's and Hyundai's reputations took a huge plunge.
Several owners complained to CtWatchdog. They were upset that their models were not categorized as having unreal advertised MPG claims, that Kia and Hyundai did not reach out to them personally to explain what they could do, and that the actual fuel economy they are getting is far less than what the corrected numbers are.
The issue was first raised by Consumer Watchdog, which after receiving scores of consumer complaints filed a suit in California claiming that Hyundai's Elantra was not getting the advertised 40 miles per gallon.
It asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to test the vehicles, which the EPA did and found that many of the 2011 and 2013 models had overstated their fuel economy by an average of three percent.
Kia and Hyundai apologized and claimed it was due to unexplained "procedural" technical errors.
"I sincerely apologize to all affected Hyundai and Kia customers, and I regret these errors occurred," said Dr. W. C. Yang, chief technology officer of Hyundai/Kia research and development in the news release. "Following up on the EPA's audit results, we have taken immediate action to make the necessary rating changes and process corrections."
On Nov. 2 the companies promised to reimburse the 900,000 owners in the U.S. for the extra money they spent on gasoline by giving them debit cards. Each owner would be reimbursed based on the miles they drove, the make of their vehicle, and the area where they lived as gasoline prices differ from state to state. The companies also promised to pay an additional 15 percent for the inconvenience.
The following vehicles are included in the revisions and debit cards:
For Hyundai: Accent, Elantra, Veloster and Veloster Turbo, Sonata Hybrid, Azera, Genesis, Tucson, and Santa Fe Sport.
For Kia: The Rio, Sportage, Sorento, Soul and Optima Hybrid.
However, not all years or all models are covered.
If you own a Hyundai go to hyundaimpginfo.com/overview/affected-models. You can also start the process there of obtaining your debit card by registering the VIN number of your vehicle.
Kia owners should go to kiampginfo.com/overview/affected-models for the same information.
Traci was not happy when she went to the Kia site and found that her 2011 Soul was not covered.
"I am very disappointed in my vehicle's mileage also," she wrote CtWatchdog.
Another Soul owner also complained:
"Have a 2012 SOUL and really like the car but mileage is not at all what was advertised or predicted. I get between 22 and 31 or 32 tops. This car was advertised to get up to 40 … guess the operative words are 'up to,'" wrote Phyllis.
The required posting of estimated fuel economy by the federal government is not meant to assure buyers that in real-world driving they would actually get the advertised mileage. However, standardized tests are required so that drivers would have valid comparisons of fuel efficiency.
I sincerely doubt that Kia and Hyundai owners will buy into the companies' claim that technical procedural errors caused the problem - on a scale never before seen.
If the two South Korean companies want to regain the trust of the motoring public, they will have to disclose exactly how those pesky problems occurred.
You can reach The Watchdog at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.ctwatchdog.com.