Hyundai has been targeted by Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit advocacy organization, over the automaker's 40 mpg fuel efficiency claim on the Hyundai Elantra. The group says Elantra owners have seen fuel economy averages of 18 and 19 mpg instead of the the 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway reported by Hyundai and the Environmental Protection Agency. As such, the group has sent letters to both Hyundai CEO John Krafcik and President Eok Jo Kim warning that if the automaker advertised the 40 mpg claim in the company's Super Bowl spots, Consumer Watchdog would release a retaliatory video of its own. The group has since followed through with that threat.
The Elantra spot scheduled to run during tonight's game, "Victory Lap," makes no mention of fuel economy whatsoever, focusing instead on the sedan's winning the 2012 North American Car of the Year award. When Hyundai previewed its first three Super Bowl spots on January 30, the automaker's official announcement indicated that this was the intent all along:
Finally, to round out the game-day lineup, Hyundai will celebrate its 2012 North American Car of the Year victory for Elantra with a new 30-second spot called "Victory Lap." The Elantra earned the prestigious award from a jury of 50 independent automotive media in early January.
Earlier today, we erroneously stated in this post that the ad running this evening was changed to not reflect the fuel economy numbers. Hyundai emphatically denies that any changes were made along the way.
In an email to Autoblog, Jim Trainor, Hyundai's senior group manager for product public relations, writes:
We never removed a fuel economy claim from our Elantra Super Bowl spot. It is, and always was, a focus on the North American Car of the Year award bestowed on Elantra. No group "made us" change our commercial and no outside group is going to dictate to us what the content of our commercials will be. The commercial you will see today is exactly how we meant it and exactly what it has been from the start.
Click past the jump for a look at the Elantra Super Bowl spot, the Consumer Watchdog clip about the vehicle's mileage claims and a press release from the non-profit.
In a related note, Popular Mechanics just-published real-world fuel economy test of two cars boasting 40 mpg EPA highway ratings is a very timely and interesting read. PM's test subjects?The Ford Focus SFE and the Hyundai Elantra.
Ultimately, when you get past all the noise, it's important to remember that "your mileage may vary" is a mantra for a reason.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 3, 2012 -- Hyundai has confirmed to Consumer Watchdog that it will not include its "40 Mile Per Gallon" claim about the Elantra in its Super Bowl advertisement weeks after the consumer group called for a cessation of such advertising. Hyundai contends, however, it was not influenced by Consumer Watchdog.
On Wednesday, Consumer Watchdog wrote a letter to Hyundai's U.S. CEO and Seoul-based President seeking for clarification after a copy of the Super Bowl advertisement appeared on Hyundai's YouTube page without the "40 MPG" claim on screen, but with the claim made on the YouTube side-bar. The consumer group had planned to widely promote a guerilla counter-advertisement showing the cost to consumers of the misrepresentation. Watch that Consumer Watchdog counter-advertisement here. http://youtu.be/LAsUctv3vQU
The ad-style video produced by Consumer Watchdog noted that even the professional testers at Consumers Union achieved only 29 MPG in combined city and highway tests of the 2011 Elantra, 12% below the company's claimed combined 33 MPG. It counts the costs to consumers:
In a year, enough gasoline for a trip from Little Rock, AR, to California's Disneyland
For all purchasers of the 2011 Elantra, an extra 10 million-plus gallons of gasoline purchased per year
For all purchasers, an extra yearly gasoline cost of $38 million.
Consumer Watchdog has urged the Environmental Protection Agency to re-test the 2011 and 2012 Elantra. The company itself conducted its original MPG tests, the basis for its EPA-certified claim of 40 MPG highway, 29 MPG city and 33 MPG in combined driving.
Real-world reports and professional driving tests report much worse mileage than Hyundai's claimed 40 MPG highway, 29 MPG city and 33 MPG combined. Drivers have particular difficulty reaching the city claim or the combined claim.
Scrutiny of MPG claims is rising after a Honda Civic hybrid owner in California won a small-claims court challenge Wednesday on the car's false MPG claims.
"Consumers who increasingly buy cars on the basis of high miles per gallon-then can't get close to the posted figure-are justifiably angry," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. "Hyundai's omission of its touted '40 MPG' claim in its Super Bowl ads, after making a very big deal of it in earlier advertising, shows that the company is hearing the hoofbeats of consumer outrage."
Consumer Watchdog's letter sent Wednesday asked for a response from Hyundai by noon PDT Thursday, offering to stop the promotion of the guerilla video that disputes the Elantra's MPG claims and counts up the multi-million dollar cost to drivers. The letter also challenged Hyundai's U.S. CEO to fill up the tank of Elantra and either match the company's mileage claims or leave himself stranded on the road to the Super Bowl.
Consumer Watchdog wrote: "Should you intend to sneak the 40 MPG claim into your advertisement at the last moment then we offer you this challenge: Will Mr. Krafcik take the 40 MPG challenge and drive to the Super Bowl on a full tank of gasoline based exactly on that calculation, starting precisely that number of miles away? If you are not ready to do so, you should not tell 111 million U.S. Super Bowl viewers that they could either."
Read the correspondences between Hyundai and Consumer Watchdog at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/hyundaicorrespondence.pdf