Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia (owned by the same company, but operated independently) are facing a lawsuit over inflated claims about their vehicles’ fuel efficiency. According to Reuters, the company admitted in November that they “had overstated the fuel efficiency ratings on more than 1 million recently sold vehicles in the United States and Canada, and agreed to compensate owners for the additional fuel costs.” Automotive News explains that among the vehicles in question are the Kia Rio and the Hyundai Elantra from model years 2010 to 2013. This same source also claims that the lawsuit seeks to allow owners and lessees “to back out of their purchase or lease agreements on the affected vehicles.”
A consumer protection law firm estimates that the car companies will have to pay out about $775 million to customers who purchased or leased these vehicles (it is also worth noting that advocacy group Consumer Watchdog places the total closer to $100 million). This amount represents the difference between the automakers’ fuel efficiency and the vehicles’ actual mileage plus an additional 15 percent.
The Detroit News reports, “Hyundai said a typical owner of a vehicle in Florida driving 15,000 miles a year could get a $88 refund this year, in addition to future refunds for as long as they own the car.” This total will be placed on a debit card annually, and (as of this writing), owners and lessees will have to return their cars to a dealership on a yearly basis to have their odometers checked and a dollar amount calculated.
After pressing for an official EPA audit of these companies, the group also filed a false advertising claim against Hyundai for their tag, “the 40 mile per gallon Elantra.” Consumer Watchdog asserts that this entices people to buy or lease these vehicles even though their actual performance does not match up with the manufacturer’s claims: “‘The EPA rightly audited Hyundai and the public deserves to know the whole truth about why these test results were inaccurate and whether or not they were intentionally falsified,’ said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.”
Feldman Shepherd has been involved in class actions against Kia before and, along with few other Pennsylvania firms, has represented almost 10,000 Pennsylvania consumers who purchased or leased 1997 — 2000 model year Kia Sephias whose defective braking systems resulted in increased stopping distance, strong vibrations while driving and premature wear. The total jury award of $5.6 million was upheld about a year ago, in December 2011, and this money would have otherwise come out of the pockets of the consumers to pay for repairs on their vehicles.
The message to take from these cases is simple: don’t always assume your problems with a car or other product are the result of bad luck. You may not be the only one. You have rights, and it is the job of attorneys to protect the rights of consumers and ensure that your access to the civil justice system is not obstructed.
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