We're all used to seeing those words at the end of any advertisement that mentions fuel economy, and we all know what it means: Not all drivers will get the same mileage, and oftentimes what you get will be lower than what it says on the car's window sticker.
That explanation may not hold water with Louis Bird of Sacramento, California, owner of a 2011 Hyundai Elantra.
"I feel like Hyundai took advantage of me. Hyundai's advertisements about the '40 MPG' gas mileage of the Elantra instantly caught my attention. I bought the car thinking I would be seeing major savings at the pump and getting over 500 miles per tank, but Hyundai fooled me... I have not saved any money on gas and have been driving the Elantra for well over a year now. It is frustrating and disappointing. I never would have bought the Elantra in the first place if I hadn't seen Hyundai's ads boasting about gas mileage."
Bird has filed a suit looking for class-action status in Sacramento County Superior Court. The lawsuit "seeks to stop Hyundai from illegally using gas mileage numbers in its advertising of the Elantra without government-mandated disclosures." Naturally, damages are being sought for California owners of 2011 and 2012 Elantra models. As you can see above, the 2013 Elantra is still advertised with a 40-mpg rating on the highway, a figure arrived at by the EPA and, as Hyundai points out in a press release, by independent sources like Popular Mechanics and Car and Driver.From what we can tell, Consumer Watchdog, the organization is bringing the lawsuit, is alleging that Hyundai failed to "disclose certain information when mileage estimates [were] provided in their advertisements," thereby deceiving consumers into thinking the Elantra would provide better mileage than its competitors.
Scroll down for the press release from Consumer Watchdog and a response we received from the automaker. We've also included some video advertisements for the Elantra. So far, we've been unable to find any ads that don't include the expected industry-standard disclaimers about varying mileage and city versus highway fuel economy. For its part, Hyundai tells us it has "reviewed [its] ads and think Consumer Watchdog and their client are dead wrong."
SANTA MONICA, Calif., July 9, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Hyundai's Gas Mileage Claims in 2011 and 2012 Elantra Advertising Campaign Misled California Drivers
Hyundai Motor America misled consumers about the gas mileage of the 2011 and 2012 Elantra through a broad-based media advertising campaign designed to capitalize on public concern over escalating gas prices, according to a lawsuit filed by Consumer Watchdog and Cuneo Gilbert and LaDuca, LLP.
The lawsuit alleges that Hyundai touted "The 40 Mile Per Gallon Elantra" in high-impact television, Internet, and print advertisements without government-required disclosures that those mileage estimates were for highway driving only and that city driving mileage estimates were much lower. The omitted disclosures would have informed consumers that the car does not attain 40 MPG under most driving conditions. The illegal advertisements caused tens of thousands of California drivers to purchase or lease 2011 and 2012 Elantras and consequently incur unexpected fuel costs.
Download the lawsuit filed in Sacramento County Superior Court here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/resources/birdcomplaint.pdf
"I feel like Hyundai took advantage of me. Hyundai's advertisements about the '40 MPG' gas mileage of the Elantra instantly caught my attention. I bought the car thinking I would be seeing major savings at the pump and getting over 500 miles per tank, but Hyundai fooled me," said Louis Bird of Sacramento, California, a 2011 Elantra owner who is representing other consumers in the class-action lawsuit and meticulously documents his mileage. "I have not saved any money on gas and have been driving the Elantra for well over a year now. It is frustrating and disappointing. I never would have bought the Elantra in the first place if I hadn't seen Hyundai's ads boasting about gas mileage."
The lawsuit seeks to stop Hyundai from illegally using gas mileage numbers in its advertising of the Elantra without government-mandated disclosures and asks for damages on behalf of California residents who purchased or leased 2011 and 2012 Elantras.
"Hyundai used the '40 MPG' figure in a deceptive manner in order to differentiate the Elantra from similar vehicles, an especially egregious tactic during a time when consumers are looking for relief from continually rising gasoline prices," said Laura Antonini, staff attorney for Consumer Watchdog.
"Car companies are required to disclose certain information when mileage estimates are provided in their advertisements and Hyundai ignored the rules," said William Anderson, attorney for Cuneo Gilbert and LaDuca, LLP. "Without this required information, consumers cannot make accurate comparisons when shopping for vehicles."
Consumer Watchdog is a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, CA. Find us on the web at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org
Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca, LLP, a firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Bethesda, Md. and Alexandria, Va., specializes in the representation of plaintiffs in consumer, antitrust, civil rights and securities class actions and is active in major litigations pending in federal and state courts throughout the United States. For more information, go to: http://cuneolaw.com
SOURCE Consumer Watchdog
STATEMENT BY HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA
IN RESPONSE TO CLRA LITIGATION BY
CONSUMER WATCHDOG AND CUNEO GILBERT & LADUCA, LLP
Hyundai Motor America ("Hyundai") believes this case has no merit, as our advertising is accurate and in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations. In fact, we've reviewed our ads and think Consumer Watchdog and their client are dead wrong.
Importantly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently confirmed our advertised fuel economy for the Hyundai Elantra of 29 miles-per-gallon (mpg) city, 40 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined. The EPA results, generated from testing conducted on January 25, 2012 at the EPA's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are identical to the testing data Hyundai originally submitted to the agency. We are gratified with the EPA results, and are committed to continuing to reduce the fuel consumption of our vehicles in order to provide greater value and efficiency for our customers.
On the heels of the EPA testing, Popular Mechanics on February 3 released the results of its own testing of the Hyundai Elantra and reported obtaining significantly better fuel economy than advertised. "Cruising along at 55 mpg on the highway, our cars easily cleared 40 mpg and, astonishingly, approached 50." The publication stated that "40 mpg [for the Hyundai Elantra] is quite a realistic figure." Car and Driver and Consumer Reports recently have achieved similar highway results – 41 mpg and 39 mpg respectively.
The EPA deemed Hyundai the most fuel efficient automaker in the U.S. for the model year 2010, the most recent year officially tracked by the agency. Hyundai is currently the only manufacturer with four models achieving 40 mpg EPA ratings on the highway, including the Elantra, the 2012 North American Car of the Year. Last year, Hyundai sold more 40 mpg highway vehicles than Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Ford and Chevrolet combined. Through May of 2012, our new car fleet averaged more than 37 mpg, about 50 percent higher than the U.S. average.
In recent years, the EPA has revised its test methods to bring the agency's fuel economy estimates closer to consumers' "real-world" results by including factors such as high speed/rapid acceleration driving, the use of air conditioning, cold temperature operation, road grade, wind, tire pressure, load and the effects of different fuel properties. Beyond its consumer usage, EPA fuel economy data is used by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Internal Revenue Service.