The effort that ultimately resulted in admissions from Hyundai and Kia that they overstated mileage estimates all began with a consumer watchdog group in Santa Monica.
Jamie Court, of Consumer WatchDog, says his group heard complaints from consumers and grew skeptical of claims Hyundai made that its Elantra model was getting 40 miles per gallon.
In January, they asked the government to look into the claims, and in July, the group filed suit against Hyundai.
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency audit found the actual mileage on Elantra and other Hyundai and Kia models was 1 to 6 miles-per-gallon lower that estimates.
“The audit proves the sticker claims are inaccurate and that’s really important,” Court said.
On Friday, the South Korean automaker admitted the error, saying nearly 1 million cars sold between 2010 and 2012 do not achieve the mileage claims made in advertisements.
The automaker is offering to issue debit cards to customers to make up for the difference in the estimated and actual gas mileage.
Some 900,000 owners are expected to be eligible for the rebates. To see if your car qualifies for the offer, enter your VIN number here.
To determine how much each driver will receive, the company’s formula will include amount of miles driven and price of gas where the customer lives. The average rebate will hover around $88.
If all 900,000 owners get $88, it would cost the automakers more than $79 million a year, according to the Associated Press.
But Court said that’s still not enough.
“Eighty-eight dollars is chump change,” he said. “Consumers are owed more in California.”
The Consumer WatchDog group says it is not clear whether agreeing to accept the rebate would exclude customers from any additional claims or rebates from Hyundai, so Court cautions customers to read the fine print on any documents they may be asked to sign before receiving a debit card.
Spokespersons for Hyundai and Kia say they will immediately begin reissuing Fuel Economy Estimate window stickers, adding that the company will take out full page ads in Sunday newspapers apologizing to consumers for the error.