On this edition of "Your Turn," automotive blogger Tyler Lipa sheds some light on his own personal experience with the Hyundai and Kia fuel economy settlement. Popularly known as "Hypermiler Tyler," Lipa writes mainly on fuel economy issues, alternative fuel and propulsion vehicles and other related topics. You could read his blog here Lipa is also one of the most astute and opinionated automotive people in social media – whether it is on Twitter or Facebook.
Without further ado, here is Lipa's experience as a proud Hyundai owner through an interesting chapter in the company's American history.
2011 was a great year for me.
I became the owner of an Ultra Black 2012 Hyundai Accent GLS sedan.. Hyundai had finally created a small car that I thought was as good or better than its competitors. From their popular redesigned Sonata and the completely new Elantra I believed the Accent was the small car to have for the 2012 model year.
After 25,000 incident free miles, Hyundai Motors America began a campaign to adjust their fuel economy estimates, as mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, for almost all of their current models. The testing the EPA done after Hyundai released its "Coast-Down" testing data found that there were marked discrepancies. Coast down testing is used to find aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance and mechanical resistance. These values are reported to the EPA so they can calibrate their dynamometer with the correct values to simulate what they call "road load" The discrepancies that the EPA found led to Hyundai Motor America and its sister company Kia Motors America to initiate a voluntary program to reimburse owners like me who bought a car with an inflated fuel EPA rating.
Fuel economy has become increasingly important to new car buyers. That has led to more information being available to drivers. In the past the only way to find out how efficient your car is you had to fill your car up completely then run it until empty. After that you can divide the miles you drove by the capacity of your fuel tank and you'd have your miles per gallon. For most people this isn't something they'd want to go through, but now most cars have an average fuel economy gauge.
Average fuel economy gauges do the math for you. This development is a double-edged sword for automakers like Hyundai Motors America. On one hand this helps drivers learn how to drive more efficiently, but it also lets an owner find out whether or not his or her car is meeting the EPA estimates that affected their buying decision in the first place.
Where owners in the past cared little about their fuel economy, now it is common to sue for what they see as misleading information. Organizations like Consumer Watchdog are encouraging owners to seek reimbursement for this misleading information. According to one law firm they have 23 clients suing for close to $775 million in damages.
Owners who are not seeking legal action have one way to receive their reimbursement. First owners will need to find their car's Vehicle Identification Number, which is an alphanumeric code that identifies each car. Generally the VIN is found on the windshield on in the door sill. Second go to Hyundaimpginfo.com or KIAmpginfo.com where you much fill out the online claim form. This form can be found under the Overview tab of each website. Simply click "Compensation" on the next screen and fill in the relevant information. After the claim has been processed you will receive a MasterCard Rewards Card with the first disbursement of your reimbursement.
Once you receive your debit card from Hyundai you are eligible to reload the card with funds as long as you own the vehicle. Simply go back to a Hyundai dealer for another mileage confirmation and the funds will be deposited to you.
During the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, Hyundai Motors America CEO John Krafcik said roughly 90 percent of owners are happy with their reimbursement. As a current owner I am happy with the reimbursement that I've received. Personally I plan to hold onto my Accent for at least the next ten years. Since I will be the sole owner I am permitted to collect reimbursement for as long as I own the vehicle. While some owners see this as a loss of value for their car I see this as a win for me. Over the course of owning my Accent I've seen fuel economy that exceeded the EPA estimates and the loss that Hyundai is taking has become a sort of profit for me.
I personally had a unique perspective on this entire affair. For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook or even on my personal blog you know I'm all about conscientious driving that maximizes fuel economy. In my 2012 Hyundai Accent I have consistently exceeded the EPA estimates. At times I have exceeded them by more than 10 miles per gallon. I wasn't sure what to do. Should I take the money? Should I abstain in good conscious? As a way to solve this dilemma I turned to my fellow automotive journalists to help me decide. After a simple poll I saw there was overwhelming support for accepting the reimbursement. Despite all that it was still a decision I didn't take lightly.
In the end I decided to apply for the reimbursement program. After 25,000 miles and a loss of 2MPG city and 3MPG highway I received $211.74. This program is valid for the entire time that I own the vehicle. My personal plan is to apply for reimbursement every 12,000 miles.
Owners, non-owners and even the government are now involved in investigations. Some owners feel like there car has lost value. Others feel lied too. Even non-owners have expressed strong sentiment against what they see as an affront to the consumer. Hyundai Motors America was just the tip of the iceberg. Consumers are wearier than ever.
Even though Hyundai Motors America has taken the heat for their error other manufactures are now in the sights of consumer watch dog organizations and an ever vigilant media. Consumers used to relegate fuel economy to a secondary concern. Now it is the deciding factor for new car buyers. Hyundai did the right thing openly admitting the problem and putting forth a solution. Owners have a right to be upset, but their anger shouldn't just be directed at the automakers. How you drive is just as important as the car you drive. Next time you feel the need to jam the throttle or make a pass just think about how it is going to affect your fuel economy.