Detroit — Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy said a government review of vehicle miles per gallon claims prompted by two high profile incidents show no problems.
In November 2012, Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors — two Korean automakers controlled by the same conglomerate — admitted overstating mileage on nearly 1.1 million vehicles in North America sold since 2010, including about 900,000 in the United States. Last month, the automakers said they reached a $395 million deal to settle a class-action lawsuit with current and former owners of vehicles for which gas mileage ratings were overstated.
In August, Ford Motor Co. agreed to drop the fuel economy rating on the 2013 C-Max hybrid crossover from a combined 47 mpg to 43 mpg — a nearly 10 percent reduction — and will compensate owners for the worse-than-promised fuel economy. Ford said it will pay 32,000 customers for the gas-mileage discrepancy.
“We took a look at how close we were in terms of what we were seeing on our certified tests... and we made sure that (Hyundai/Kia and Ford) were the two that seemed to be the outliers and we’re pretty confident that what you’re seeing on the miles per gallon labels is going to be as close as we can get it,” McCarthy told reporters on the sidelines of the North American International Auto Show. “We are not seeing anything at this point.”
Under the EPA’s rules, in place since 1977, Ford was able to assign the same mileage rating to the C-Max as the Fusion hybrid sedan, which also has a 47 mpg rating, because they are in the same family of vehicles. While the protocol has worked for conventional vehicles, it has not been as effective for hybrids.
“It’s pretty important that (consumers) not only have confidence in (the mpg figure), but they understand it,” McCarthy said, saying EPA will continue to perform audits.
The EPA’s civil enforcement investigation into the automakers is pending. The EPA held meetings with lawyers late last year aimed at reaching a settlement but it’s not clear if the agency will seek to impose fines — or reach a settlement with the automakers. McCarthy said she was “not privy to the timeline” and declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Hyundai’s new U.S. chief Dave Zuchowski said in a Detroit News interview the company doesn’t think the issue is costing the company sales.
“We think it is behind us. We think it’ s not having a big impact on our business. We’d rather have positive PR than negative PR,” he said. “Our dealers will tell you that, ‘We did the right thing. We moved quickly. We moved decisively. We took care of our customers.’ ”
McCarthy said the midterm review for the 2013-2025 fuel economy standards to determine whether the final years of the plan to double fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 mpg would not be sent out for review “until closer to 2018.”
“Part of that is looking at the track record. We’ve just getting started and so far so good,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy, a Massachusetts native and big Red Sox fan, wore her “Patriots red” to the auto show — not to tweak fans of the Detroit Tigers’ that lost to the Red Sox last year.