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GM halts large SUV sales due to fuel economy labels

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. confirmed Friday that it has halted sales of nearly 60,000 of its most popular SUVs because the vehicles have incorrect Environmental Protection Agency window stickers that overstate fuel economy.

The stop sale of its entire inventory of large SUVs includes nearly 60,000 vehicles including 2016 Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave large crossovers. GM said it discovered the “inadvertent error.”

“The error caused the EPA estimated fuel economy to be listed on the window label as 1-2 mpg (miles per gallon) higher than it should have been,” the carmaker said in a statement. “GM is stopping sale of the affected models until a corrected label is printed and affixed. GM will contact owners of the affected models to address this situation. This label error has no effect on the safety and operation of the vehicles.”

Automotive News reported the stop sale earlier Friday.

Dealers were notified Wednesday about the EPA mileage sticker issue, characterized by the company as an inadvertent mistake. New stickers are being printed and should arrive to dealers within the next few days; one dealer said he expects them no later than Tuesday.

GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said Friday that GM discovered the error when looking at data for the 2017 GMC Acadia. EPA was immediately notified and GM admitted the mistake and put in motion efforts to correct the issue as quickly as possible, Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said GM found that the issue was an “internal error in our system,” and that it has corrected it, but it is not disclosing what it is.

An unknown number of vehicles have been sold with the misprinted EPA stickers. Customers who have already purchased one of the SUVs — on sale since the fall and affecting potentially tens of thousands of vehicles — soon will be mailed corrected EPA window stickers, Wilkinson said.

The vehicles are popular sellers for GM. Through April, GM has sold more than 82,000 of the large SUVs including 17,457 Enclaves; 39,105 Traverse and 25,575 Acadia SUVs. It’s unclear how many of those vehicles were 2016 models.

Wilkinson said the EPA website has been updated with the correct information and the company is in the process of updating the information on its consumer and media websites.

GM said the correct fuel economy information is as follows: 18 mpg combined city/highway for front-wheel drive SUVs, or 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg highway, while all-wheel drive models should have a combined rating of 17 mpg and 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.

It’s unclear whether GM could face any fines or financial penalties from federal regulators due to the error.

The EPA, in a brief emailed statement, confirmed GM notified the agency that it was correcting fuel economy labels for the 2016 Enclave, Traverse and Acadia SUVs. “We have asked the company to provide all relevant information to the agency,” EPA said in the statement.

Automakers have come under increased scrutiny regarding fuel economy in recent years. Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Rebecca Lindland in an interview said GM could face a penalty from EPA over the issue, but whether it will is another question. Volkswagen was discovered to have cheated on diesel emissions tests and faces fines, recall costs and civil damages in the United States and other countries. Up to 11 million cars are affected. The company has apologized and says it will fix the cars.

“I would like to see (GM Chairman and CEO) Mary Barra or somebody come out and say we’re going to do an internal investigation to understand what happened,” she said.

Lindland said GM needs to be transparent and upfront about the issue that while a mistake, appears not to just be a typo.

Ford Motor Co. in 2014 lowered fuel economy ratings on six vehicles and agreed to pay $125 to $1,050 to more than 200,000 owners as compensation for extra money drivers will spend on gasoline because of lower-than-promised fuel economy. That came after the EPA said Ford reported the mistakes after an internal audit.

In November 2012, Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. admitted overstating mileage on nearly 1.1 million vehicles in North America sold since 2010, including about 900,000 in the United States. Hyundai and Kia in fall 2014 agreed to a record-setting $360 million settlement with the U.S. government for overstating fuel economy ratings ultimately on 1.2 million U.S. vehicles, following a two-year investigation by the EPA.

BMW AG in fall 2014 also had to reduce fuel economy ratings on four 2014 Mini Coopers after it was ordered by federal regulators to revise the mileage labels following EPA testing that found its results didn’t match BMW’s submissions.

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Keith Laing contributed.