Hyundai And Kia Facing Lawsuits Over Exaggerated Fuel Economy Claims

Decision expected within a few weeks

After revealing they had exaggerated fuel-economy claims on approximately 900,000 vehicles in November, Hyundai and Kia rolled out a gift-card program to compensate customers for their extra gas expenses.

Unsatisfied with that compensation, at least 32 customers have filed lawsuits against the South Korean automakers.

A panel of special court judges met last week in Orlando, Florida to determine whether the lawsuits should be centralized in a Southern California federal court. Their decision is expected in a few weeks.

Consumer Watchdog, a consumer organization based in California, is arguing the cases should be centralized there because both automakers, as well as several defendants are based there.

"In situations like this--where a company has misled customers and undermined competition in the automobile marketplace on a national level--the most effective way to make sure Hyundai and Kia customers get their day in court is to consolidate litigation in a single court," said Harvey Rosenfield, a lawyer in the case and founder of Consumer Watchdog.

His organization has been a leading critic of Hyundai. Last January, Consumer Watchdog called for Hyundai to suspend advertisements that claimed its Elantra sedan achieved 40 miles per gallon, then petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to re-check the vehicle.

Based on that complaint and others, the EPA investigated and found the Korean automakers had overstated the fuel efficiency of several vehicles by as much as 6 miles per gallon. Hyundai and Kia said the overstatements came as a result of a faulty test and were not intentional.

Fuel economy has become a top concern of car buyers in recent years, so both car makers and car buyers have paid closer attention to the accuracy of MPG claims.

In December, Consumer Reports found the fuel-economy claims of the Ford C-Max Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid were significantly lower than the 47 MPG claims touted by the automaker. The consumer magazine reported actual results were lower by 21 percent and 17 percent, respectively. The EPA is investigating.

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached at and on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.

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