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Organization claims a high number of drivers are unable to come close to mileage estimates

Most drivers know that when they buy a vehicle the estimates for fuel economy on the window stickers are just estimates. In the real world, driving the fuel economy can be much different. There has been more than the typical number of complaints about the fuel economy that Hyundai is claiming for its new Elantra.
 
Hyundai is claiming that the Elantra gets 29 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway for an combined rated of 33 mpg. The problem is that according to the higher than usual number of complaints about the efficiency of the Elantra, the real world mileage is in the mid-20 mpg range. Drivers that purchased the vehicle based in large part on the efficiency claims are understandably upset by the real world figures. 
 
 
Consumer Watchdog is asking the EPA to investigate the mileage claims for the Elantra. The letter sent to the EPA read in part:
 
A notable exception to this rule has caught the attention of Consumer Watchdog. For the two most recent model years, Hyundai Motors has actively marketed its base models of the Elantra on their very high 29/40 MPG, and 33 MPG average, leaving a trail of disappointed drivers. An Edmunds online Town Hall discussion on the Elantra attracted scores of drivers who can't, no matter how hard they try, duplicate such numbers. One very public example of this was USA Today tech writer Jefferson Graham, whose Sept. 22 article on his new Elantra expressed his disappointment that he averaged only 22 MPG, a gap that no "break-in" period seems likely to fill.
 
Consumer Watchdog also pointed out that while automotive publication Motor Trend named the 2012 Elantra a Car of the Year contender, the fuel economy it achieved in testing was only 26.5 mpg. That number was poor enough compared to estimates for Motor Trend to mention it in the review. The consumer organization is asking the EPA to retest the Elantra and if it finds the estimates Hyundai is giving aren't accurate to impose a fine on the automaker to compensate drivers.
 
 
One of the big selling pints of the Elantra was that the 40 mpg highway claim was for the normal model of the car whereas other automakers needed special trims to hit 40 mpg. Hyundai also has the Accent with the same 40 mpg claim. Chevy has touted a version of its Cruze, the Eco, which gets 40 mpg on the highway. Ford has a special version of the Focus with a claimed 40 mpg highway rating that is called the SFE.
 
In October of this year, Hyundai announced that it planned to offer a plug-in hybrid to go against the Prius called the Elantra Touring

Source: Consumer Watchdog



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Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By The Raven on 12/5/2011 1:43:21 PM , Rating: 4
I guess I am confused about who came up with the data to make the claim. When someone buys a car, I think they will look at the EPA numbers. If this number was 22 mpg or something like that then it doesn't matter if Hyundai said that it was going to be 40 mpg, I wouldn't buy the car.

It seems that in advertisements the makers cite the EPA numbers. Not just their own.

So because of this I am assuming that the EPA is at fault here at least partially.

Can someone please extrapolate on what the sticker said?




RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By The Raven on 12/5/2011 1:51:54 PM , Rating: 5
Answering my own question:
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/PowerSearch.do?acti...

EPA test show these numbers. Not Hyundai's. So how much is Hyundai to blame (I say at least some). But stupid consumers + stupid gov't = cash money for lawyers.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By MonkeyPaw on 12/5/2011 1:59:53 PM , Rating: 4
Classic case of whatever a regulating body sets as a standard for testing, manufacturers will tune thier products for that test.

I can see how Hyundai got these results, as my Focus CAN get 40mpg by running 65mph, it actually gets much closer to 30 combined, and as low as 27mpg in the city.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By The Raven on 12/5/2011 2:28:49 PM , Rating: 2
So the EPA stripped everything out of the Civic, Corolla, AND Elantra to get great numbers? I don't follow. Why would the EPA do this?


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By MonkeyPaw on 12/5/2011 3:19:50 PM , Rating: 2
You misunderstand. The EPA didn't "do" this, but they do set a standard for how cars get rated for fuel economy. Auto makers can tune cars to score well under those conditions, largely by transmission tuning. Its the same story for crash testing, because high MPG and 5-star crash results sell cars. Thats why the testing requirements and methods are just as critical as the test results.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By The Raven on 12/5/2011 4:58:06 PM , Rating: 2
Oh I think I understand what you are saying now. Yeah this really makes the EPA look stupid then. It is like if the FDA said that you can't poison people and GSK gives them a sample to test and pass the "poison test" then sell something completely different.

So the FDA puts their stamp of approval of the poisoned drug and 1000s die. Those 1000s would've been better without the endorsemnt.

I know it is a dark example but my point is that I think people wouldn't have bought these Elantras if there wasn't an EPA sticker on there. I think they would be better off with a Consumer Reports sticker or something that actually makes sense.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By MonkeyPaw on 12/5/2011 5:30:15 PM , Rating: 1
Well, it also furthers the point that just because a governing body determines the testing methods, it doesn't mean you should use only the results of those values. This isn't a toaster, it's a several thousand dollar car that should last you anywhere from 5-15 years. I would read at least one review, if not as many as I could find from reputable sources (MotorTrend, Road&Track, Automobile, Autoweek), and then I'd read owner reviews. No government rating is going to be as good as what professionals and real users can provide.

This isn't the EPA's issue, or Hyundai's. It's a classic case of "buyer beware," but in our never-lose society, people demand lawsuits and big-government to rescue them.


By anactoraaron on 12/6/2011 9:29:25 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's a classic case of "buyer beware," but in our never-lose society, people demand lawsuits and big-government to rescue them.


I'm not exactly sure what you are trying to say here. Are you saying that companies can make outrageous unsubstantiated claims about their product with little or zero consequence?

Yeah it's fine that there are people like yourself that check multiple sources (which may or may not be accurate) before making a big purchase, but in reality sales are more about brand/name recognition and advertising. Lately Hyundai has been trying to make a name for themselves by these claims of fuel efficiency. That's the problem.


By nolisi on 12/6/2011 5:49:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
but in our never-lose society, people demand lawsuits and big-government to rescue them.


Why should it be anything other than "never-lose"? When you make any substantial financial deal in the free market, the deliverables should match the bill of sale. Are you advocating it should be otherwise? Because that notion destroys the legitimacy of the ideals of a free market which include efficiency in commerce and fair trade.

Understanding that things like weather and road conditions can affect realworld mileage is one thing, but when you can't deliver on your claims to a substantial number of consumers, that kills the idea of fair trade in the market. The subsequent backlash then hurts efficiency in the market. I think these ideas ar bigger than any individual seller on the free market. Otherwise you have a market governed by corporate interests rather than fair trade. At best this is oligarchy/corporatocracy and at worst it's a mild form of communism that happens to be run by agents who advocate free market ideas.


By idiot77 on 12/5/2011 10:50:30 PM , Rating: 2
Well... the EPA lowered the estimate on my '11 Fiesta down from 40 MPG (Ford's original claim) to 37-38 MPG and I get a little bit better or worse just depending on temperature. When it's hot it's 37-38, when it's 50-60's it's 42, and when it's cold it's about 38-39. All highway #s. In city is a very reliable better than advertised 33-35 MPG.

Go figure.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 12/5/2011 2:02:07 PM , Rating: 5
If I recall correctly, the EPA only tests a small number of vehicles. The manufacturers are actually the ones that test the vehicles based on the EPA guidelines and submit the ratings.

I'm guessing that Hyundai is mucking around with the transmission shift points (at least on auto trannies) to "ace" the EPA tests.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By The Raven on 12/5/2011 2:17:47 PM , Rating: 3
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/how_tested.shtml
quote:
Manufacturers test their own vehicles—usually pre-production prototypes—and report the results to EPA. EPA reviews the results and confirms about 10-15 percent of them through their own tests at the National Vehicles and Fuel Emissions Laboratory.

So someone at the EPA was busy jacking off or something while these test were 'confirmed'? Or was someone paid off to look the other way? I know Hyundai may be dirty here, but it looks like we should get rid of this part of the EPA since Motortrend is doing a better job (and for free to boot).

Unless the EPA is also mucking around with the ratios then that is irrelevant. There is no "acing" of tests at the EPA from what this is saying.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By Jedi2155 on 12/6/2011 6:07:56 AM , Rating: 1
It can be extremely expensive to test so unless you want to fund the EPA to do it better.....

Not to mention that the variation between reviewers can be drastic. Just look at these comparison numbers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Volt#Review...


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By The Raven on 12/6/2011 10:35:19 AM , Rating: 2
You do understand that you are coughing up evidence against your point right? That list you have there...it has the EPA as one of the sources. How much did you pay for all of the others? $0 I'm guessing (unless you have a C&D sub or something).

It is extremely expensive to test...if the EPA is doing it, because it seems completely unneccesary since you have all these other testers out there.

Yes the numbers are drastic since they all have different testing methods and conditions (e.g. hypermiling vs. 'normal style driving'). Reliable numbers from one of these sources is better than the dog and pony show that the EPA is putting on with their tests of prototypes.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By nolisi on 12/6/2011 6:23:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Reliable numbers from one of these sources is better than the dog and pony show that the EPA is putting on with their tests of prototypes.


These sources don't test every car out there. Just the hot ones making the front pages.

If these sources tested every car put to market, I might agree.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By The Raven on 12/7/2011 1:00:31 PM , Rating: 2
What cars are you talking about? Chevy Volt is "hot"? The toyota Corolla? These are basic cars, not Lambos.

Pretty much every car out there is tested by at least someone.

That aside, assuming that the EPA's tests are as effective as this article points out, you would be better off not having the EPA running these tests and putting magic stickers on cars to potentially mislead consumers.


By Jedi2155 on 12/10/2011 6:10:12 AM , Rating: 2
I think the EPA needs to improve their testing and reporting methodology better represent the average driver.

The ultimate problem is that they report only a city, and highway for a single driver type rather than a range of values as it is in the real world. Putting in too many numbers tends to confuse the consumers, so in the end what do you really want? No number at all? A meta score from a variety of sources would be best, but as I originally pointed out, it is expensive.

The primary issue with the Hyundai it appears is that the design of the vehicle seems to do particularly well on the EPA's rather lax test which has only an average speed of 48 mph on the highway section AND the engine starts warm which has a HUGE impact on average MPG.

An example of the huge impact of warm initial temperatures is my personal experience from my 2003 Civic LX would get 40 MPG on a 40 mile 65-70 MPH high way commute, but due the huge loss required in warming the engine, it only gets an 35 MPG average. While its true, that the values can be misleading as I tend to exceed the EPA values significantly as the Civic I mentioned above is only rated at 29 MPG combined compared to my 35 MPG average (data collected over 35,000 miles and 104 fill ups), it is still useful as a base value.


By woofersus on 12/5/2011 2:21:28 PM , Rating: 2
That's true. There is some self-certification going on that has to be policed to make sure the manufacturers follow EPA guidelines.

All manufacturers do some amount of tuning to suit the EPA tests and make their tested results look as good as possible. (although it's worth noting that new EPA test guidelines took effect a couple of years ago that are supposed to better reflect real world driving and they did indeed cause lower mileage numbers for some models) The problem is that this car seems to have a higher than average gap between tested and real-world conditions, as demonstrated by the higher than average number of complaints. It seems something else is up.

My guess would be that they are either using a different set of programming with the engine and/or transmission than the official for-sale version, as you suggested, or they did some of the things that the other Automakers (notably GM with the Cruze and Ford with the Focus) did with their high mileage variants, like using special low rolling resistance tires that don't come with the Elantra being sold on lots, and making small aerodynamic optimizations like blocking grill openings.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By dsx724 on 12/5/2011 3:56:33 PM , Rating: 1
I own a Sonata (35MPG rated) and I can easily get 42MPG cruising on the highway with constant engine load (between 50-60MPH). The locking auto tranny is very efficient in locked mode and inefficient in unlocked mode like all regular auto trannies (wasting 5-15% of engine output).

People are also too lazy (I know I am) to drive efficiently so they step on the pedal for a while and then let go for a while and that is incredible inefficient because you're constantly shifting energy between the car's momentum and the engine through the transmission so all the losses apply.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 12/5/2011 5:18:04 PM , Rating: 2
I own a2011 Sonata 2.0t. It's rated at 22/33/26 (city/highway/combined). Although my combined numbers are pretty much in line with where they should be, I have NEVER, EVER gotten 33 mpg on the highway after over a year with the car and 15,000 miles. That's even when I set the cruise and do between 65mph and 70mph.

The highest I've gotten was 30.65 mpg (which was my most recent trip over Thanksgiving weekend).

As you can see, I keep detailed records of my fill-ups (the onboard computer is optimistic by at least 3 mpg). Here's a year's worth of fill-up logs:

http://img706.imageshack.us/img706/7096/fr61size64...


By Keeir on 12/5/2011 7:16:06 PM , Rating: 2
I had a rental Elantra for a while. Cruise Control was -aweful- and I got better MPG without it. Still only ~35 at the pump. So I can see why people would be annoyed. I get ~28 at the pump for my 18/26 car.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By Solandri on 12/5/2011 8:38:16 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
I own a2011 Sonata 2.0t. It's rated at 22/33/26 (city/highway/combined). Although my combined numbers are pretty much in line with where they should be, I have NEVER, EVER gotten 33 mpg on the highway after over a year with the car and 15,000 miles. That's even when I set the cruise and do between 65mph and 70mph .

That will do it. The EPA highway figure is derived from a test which (except for the start and stop and some brief periods in between) is between 50-60 mph. Air resistance increases as roughly the cube of speed, so 65-70 mph requires significantly more energy. Looking at mpg vs. speed curves, a 10%-15% drop going from 55mph to 65-70 mpg is about what you should expect. This is the reason the government lowered the speed limit to 55 mph in response to the 1973 Arab oil embargo.

http://www.theoildrum.com/uploads/12/mpg_vs_speed....
(You can google for these, there are tons of them out there.)


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 12/5/2011 8:52:48 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The EPA highway figure is derived from a test which (except for the start and stop and some brief periods in between) is between 50-60 mph.

I'm sorry, but I think you're wrong here. 55-60 was for the old, pre-2008 EPA standards. The 2008 standards, which caused MPG to drop across the board, took into account higher freeway speeds:

quote:
The reason why fuel economy estimates have been coming out too high is simple: The EPA-specified testing and reporting method has not been updated since 1985. Since then, a lot has changed. For one thing, the former national speed limit of 55 mph has been abolished. So instead of topping out at 60 mph, the new highway rating test includes speeds up to 80 mph.


http://www.edmunds.com/fuel-economy/explained-2008...


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By omnicronx on 12/5/2011 9:03:00 PM , Rating: 2
There are also many other factors involved than just speed and it certainly changes car to car, and depending on configuration.

A 6 speed transmission for example will most likely have better highway mileage than a 5 speed at those speeds because you are sitting at lower RPM even in the exact same vehicle.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 12/5/2011 9:04:04 PM , Rating: 2
My car has a 6-speed auto, and at 70 mph it's turning 2,000 rpm.


By omnicronx on 12/5/2011 9:47:07 PM , Rating: 2
Figured as much, I don't think that 2.0T comes in anything but.. I was just trying to point out that even at 65-75, the conditions can be ideal (or close to it) for mileage depending on the vehicle.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By autoboy on 12/5/2011 5:45:46 PM , Rating: 2
50-60mph steady state is easier than the EPA ratings. At 60mph average speed I can get 35mpg in my VW GTI and it is rated at 31 highway. I would be surprised if you didn't get over the EPA rating at a steady state 60mph.

On average my GTI gets 29.5 mpg with a highway rating of 31. I don't know the EPA average for my car but I'm getting better than the EPA average so there is an example of a car getting better than advertised mpg. My commute is mostly freeway at 70mph but there are a lot of hills (I280 in California) and my car reports my average speed as 35mph over it's lifetime.


By Spuke on 12/5/2011 6:35:19 PM , Rating: 2
2007 Pontiac Solstice GXP (2.0L DI turbo). Rated at 19/28/22. Average is 26 mpg, mostly freeway with a total of 8 stops (lights or signs...mostly at the end of the drive). Typical all freeway is 30 mpg. Best is 33 mpg (twice on commute, once on a freeway drive averaging 60 mph). I can easily get the 28 mpg hwy number on my commute with a small modification of my driving style.


By Mint on 12/9/2011 1:56:36 PM , Rating: 2
A lot of people beat the EPA rating for their newest test. It gives much lower MPG ratings than tests in Europe for the same car (including conversion, obviously).

There seems to be something odd about this Hyundai, though. The disparity is too large to be due to driving style changes.


RE: Who is to blame? Hyundai, EPA or both?
By Samus on 12/6/11, Rating: -1
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