The unintended acceleration brouhaha at Toyota led to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration tightening the vise on recall procedures. Likewise, the fuel economy kerfuffle that blew up with Hyundai and Kia's admission of overstated fuel mileage claims could lead to the Environmental Protection Agency policing automaker assertions by performing more audits.

At least, that's what a senior engineer with the government agency said while in Michigan giving a talk, according to a report in Automotive News. What that actually means, however, is still in question. Just ten to 15 percent of new vehiclessomething like 150 to 200 cars per year – are rested by the EPA to verify automaker numbers. The EPA's own tests include a "fudge factor" to adjust lab mileage for real-world mileage, and the agency still relies on automakers to submit data for tests that it doesn't have the facilities to perform. How much more auditing can the EPA really expect to do, or perhaps a more relevant question would be how much more accurate could the EPA's audits become?

The price of gasoline, the psychological importance of 40 miles per gallon to a frugal car buyer, an automaker wanting to further justify the price premium of a hybrid, all of these things contribute to fuel economy numbers that insist on creeping upward. Perhaps the senior engineer encapsulated the whole situation best when he said, "Everybody wants a label that tells you exactly what you're going to get, but obviously that's not possible. A good general rule of thumb is that real-world fuel economy is about 20 percent lower than the lab numbers." If the lesson isn't exactly 'buyer beware,' it's at least 'buyer be wary.'


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  • 87 Comments
      kevsflanagan
      • 2 Years Ago
      I dunno call me crazy but it should be a simple matter for the EPA to simply tell automakers. To Certify your MPG you must drop the car off at X-Lab to be tested. While yes there are plenty of automakers and yes plenty of cars it is not as if they will all drop them off all at once. I can't imagine these types of tests to estimate MPG could employ that many people perhaps 20 tops and that is factoring in our governments craziness of over complicating things. Simply have these people test the vehicles and when a automaker releases a new model or refresh or has done something they feel will improve the vehicles MPG they simply drop it off to be tested. Why monitor when they should simply be doing the testing themselves I guess is what I'm saying.
      dreadcthulhu01
      • 2 Years Ago
      Even if the EPA is only testing 10-15% of the new cars that come out annually, if done correctly, that could be enough to keep the automakers honest. Just have the automakers release figures for all of their cars first, and then randomly select models to be tested, making sure to get at least one from each brand, and staggered from year to year (IE, test an Elantra one year, a Santa Fe the next, then a Sonanta, and so on) without informing the automakers which cars will be checked ahead of time. If a car comes up short, then start testing more models from that company. Done this way, at least one of the dozen mass-market KIA/Hyundai models that had overstated numbers would have been caught by the EPA, and would have led them to finding the other problematic vehicles sooner.
        Fred
        • 2 Years Ago
        @dreadcthulhu01
        I was with you 100 percent until you wrote: " If a car comes up short, then start testing more models from that company." Rather than more testing, just fine the automaker $1,000 for every vehicle sold AND make the automaker refund another $1,000 to each owner. I'll bet we'd see a lot more accuarte mileage reporting. lol
      Rich
      • 2 Years Ago
      Here is an idea: have the EPA drive it... then post the results... within a 5% window, fine!
      ARKY DESIGN BOY
      • 2 Years Ago
      The EPA as a political force has done more to ruin this country's economy than it has done to help the environment. Am I lying?
        BG
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ARKY DESIGN BOY
        Not lying, but I think you are too young to remember how nasty rivers and streams were in the 1970s, how the air was choking in cities like Los Angeles, how cars had no emissions controls, how wetlands were filled in by greedy developers. You really do not want to go back to that world.
      Dave Yost
      • 2 Years Ago
      Lighter cars means more road deaths. They never put the two together ,if they did years ago the public would have told them to stop
        montegod7ss
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave Yost
        Eating the steering wheel of a '76 Cadillac Fleetwood won't exactly be healthy for you, regardless of it it weighs 6klb.
        Greg
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave Yost
        weight doesn't make a car safe. Space, for compression, movement, & absorption of energy make it safe. Safety features make them safe. Visibility makes them safe. Defensive driving makes them safe. If they perform poorly against heavy vehicles in a crash, blame the heavy vehicle, because that's the real problem.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Greg
          [blocked]
      rjstanford
      • 2 Years Ago
      "the psychological importance of 40 miles per gallon to a frugal car buyer," That's part of the problem right there. The difference between 39 and 41 mpg is almost zero (well within a testing variance) - the difference between 9 and 11 mpg is huge. Switching to something like L/100km really needs to happen to make measurements reasonable. In G/100m(more "American"), 9mpg -> 11mpg becomes 11 g/100m vs 9 g/100m. 39 mpg -> 41 mpg becomes 2.56 g/100m vs 2.44 g/100m.
        IBx27
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rjstanford
        That's one of the stupidest ideas I've heard of in a while. The metric system is great, but there's not a whole lot else for us to learn from europe.
        Gorgenapper
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rjstanford
        9mpg = 26.13L/100km 11mpg = 21.38L/100km = Difference of roughly 4.7L 39mpg = 6.03L/100km 41mpg = 5.73L/100km = Difference of 0.3L/100km
      FSHNT21
      • 2 Years Ago
      Funny... The "claimed" MPG stickers on the vehicles of ALL manufacturers are based on "EPA Estimates"... It's not necessarily the fault of the manufacturer that the EPA's data is wrong...
        Rich
        • 2 Years Ago
        @FSHNT21
        But I don't read good, its the Gov't fault for not leading my hand!
      FIDTRO
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hyundai/Kia was a sketchy company back then, and it's still a sketchy company now.
      BarB
      • 2 Years Ago
      ONCE AGAIN THE EPA WILL DESTROY THINGS....JUST LOOK AT THEIR AGENDA ON PLASTIC...THEY MADE US ASK FO RIT TO NOT USE PAPER AND NOW THEY SAY IT CAN'T DEGRADE IN LANDFILL...WELL DUH....ALONG WITH PAMPERS THEY SAID ALL NEW MOTHERS SHOULD USE TO AVOID USING ENERGY TO WASH AND DRY, IF YOU HAD NO OUTSIDE CLOTHESLINE....HOW IS THAT WORKING OUT....THEY ARE FILLING THE LANDFILLS MORE QUICKLY THAN ANYTHING...ALL MANDATES OF THE EPA...AND DON'T GET ME STARTED ON THE HAZARDOUS LIGHT BULBS THEY ARE NOW FORCING PURCHASES TO GET THAT LAST NO LONGER THAN THE REGULAR BULBS, I HAVE HAD THEM AND THEY DON'T...PLUS IF THEY BREAK YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THE HOUSE AND CALL FOR HELP FROM HAZMAT....WAY TO GO EPA...YOU HAVE RUINED PEOPLE'S LIVES AND YET THEY ARE NOT SMART ENOUGH TO FIGURE OUT YOUR AGENDA
        Greg
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BarB
        Is your caps lock & return key broken?
        • 2 Years Ago
        @BarB
        [blocked]
      Darryl L. Forbes
      • 2 Years Ago
      So, those of you who hate the EPA, would you like to go back to the days of 16 mpg mid sized cars? Even a pinto, a TINY toyota, or a vw only got around 25 or so back then. As expensive as gas is now, what would it cost if most vehicles got the same mileage as they did in the 1970's? Also, I work on cars at a Ford dealership. We can run 5 or 6 cars inside with only a ventilation fan running. But in the rare instance when we get 1980's model in for service, even if it's running PERFECTLY, we have to open the Big work-bay doors to keep from being suffocated. Do you want to go back to those days? When is the last time that you had to add oil between oil changes? Strict regulations made the auto companies build their engines better.
        joynerz
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Darryl L. Forbes
        Bubba no want to hear 'bout govr'ment.
        cmax383666
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Darryl L. Forbes
        The older cars were heavier.Thats for sure.However at least once they were paid for it did not have to go to a hospital to get repaired .The older ones you could keep running witrh a litlle mechanical knowledge and a wrench or two.The best is yet to come when the great cars today get a few miles on them and are out of warranty nobody will be able to keep the on the road.All repairs start $500 AND GO UP FROM THERE as far as mileage goes .All the EPA needs to do is take a couple of each of them and drive them for a day or two no secret to it.It seems anything the gov. gets involved in it takes a fortune to do something that an 8 grader can do.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Levine Levine
      • 2 Years Ago
      The misleading mpg claim exposes not only the EPA's incompetence as a Big Government regulatory agency but also as a willing accomplice in swindling the consumer. Following the footsteps of other corrupted Federal regulatory agencies, EPA is operated by 'revolving door' officials who fornicate with the industry that they are charged with regulating.
        BarB
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Levine Levine
        they are a corrupt agency....they keep changing what they want when they find their old ideas were disastrous....as in plastic filling our landfils with no decomposition....now it is back to paper as we had before their fiasco? and pampers not good anymore...go back to basics and wash, whcih they said used too much energy....wow...and they get away with waffling just to keep themselves in the news and relevant...which they never were
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