Are Mileage Lawsuits Picking Up Speed?

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Whenever I am asked about a particular car or truck and its mileage, I usually get the same reaction when I tell them the particular mpg.

Most people say, “Yeah, but we know it won’t really get that mileage.” You’d think by now that most people don’t truly believe the sticker mileage and would just accept it.

That’s not happening.

In California, Consumer Watchdog has filed a class action lawsuit against Hyundai regarding the advertised mileage of the Elantra. Specifically, the suit claims Hyundai advertises the Elantra will get 40 mpg, but does not include the disclaimer that 40 miles per gallon is for highway driving only. It’s unclear how much money Consumer Watchdog is seeking, but whatever it is, Hyundai has no plans to lose this suit. 

In response, the company said, “Hyundai Motor America believes this case has no merit, as our advertising is accurate and in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations. In fact, we’ve reviewed our ads and think Consumer Watchdog and their client are dead wrong.”

The suit comes just a few months after the California owner of a Honda Civic Hybrid lost her small claims lawsuit about the mpg of the car. Heather Peters said Honda misrepresented the Civic Hybrid would get 50 mpg. Initially, she won her case in small claims court then lost the appeal.

Honda also settled a class action lawsuit with 460,000 Civic Hybrid owners about claims the car did not get the mileage advertised. That settlement called for Civic Hybrid owners to get $100-$200 and up to $1,500 to put toward a new Honda.

There is another case filed this spring by a California man claiming his GMC Terrain failed to get the mileage advertised. General Motors has no comment on that case.

These cases may be just the start of a new period where consumers take automakers to court over mileage claims. As more models get 35, 40, or 45 mpg on the highway, the folks buying these cars are more focused than ever on fuel efficiency.

The problem is that mileage represented for new cars and trucks comes through EPA testing, not through real world driving. In the real world, how you drive, the conditions outside, and the traffic you encounter all impact the mileage you’ll get every day. In short, it’s highly unlikely you will ever get the mileage that is stated in ads and on the sticker in the showroom.

Does it mean automakers are duping the public? No. There may be cases where certain models get mileage well below what’s advertised. But there will also be cases where the public hears the mileage in ads (typically the higher number through highway driving) and expect to get that every day while driving around their city or suburb. 

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