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Our New Years Resolution

3:37 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Carmen Balber

What an inspiring 2012! Together, we exposed and stopped false MPG claims by automakers, shamed health insurance companies into lowering outrageous rate hikes and moved closer to the day when technology companies can’t collect and sell our private information online and on our phones without consent. This year we’ll continue these fights, and more.

Big things are going to happen in 2013, and we’re glad you’re here with us to see them through. We’ll be asking in the coming days your thoughts on what Consumer Watchdog’s priorities should be in 2013.

For now, here are some of our pledges for this year. We will:

What do you think of our resolutions? At Consumer Watchdog we know that when public opinion is on our side, we can make big things happen. So be on the lookout for our survey next week, and let us know your opinion on what our priorities should be in 2013.

Your ideas, actions and complaints were behind some of our biggest consumer protection victories. We need your input again to make this year as big as the last.

Happy New Year!
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Posted by Carmen Balber, Executive Director of Consumer Watchdog.

Ford’s Fusion and C-Max “47 MPG” Claims Under Scrutiny

4:29 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Ford's False Promises

If your 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid or C-Max Hybrid is not getting gas mileage anywhere near Ford’s advertised 47 MPG, you probably are not alone.

And Consumer Watchdog would like to hear from you.

Following our letter one year ago to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for an audit of Hyundai’s MPG claims, the EPA retested the carmaker’s fleet and, for the first time in history, ordered changes to multiple models with falsified stickers. Now Ford is on the hot seat.

For both the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid, Ford promises a fuel economy trifecta of 47 MPG city, 47 MPG highway, and 47 MPG combined city and highway. According to new data from Consumer Reports, neither car comes close to 47 MPG under any conditions:

In our tests, the Fusion Hybrid delivered 39 mpg overall and 35 and 41 in city and highway conditions, respectively. For the C-Max Hybrid, we got 37 mpg overall, with 35 and 38 for city and highway. These two vehicles have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we’ve seen among any current models.

The information triggered the EPA to initiate its own investigation of Ford’s Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid fuel economy claims.

Consumer Watchdog is investigating the auto industry’s practices related to fuel economy claims, and we’d like to hear from you. Have you experienced gas mileage problems with a Ford Fusion Hybrid, Ford C-Max Hybrid or any other vehicle not living up to the advertised MPG?

Tell us your story here.

The good news is that the EPA is finally looking more closely into the MPG claims of carmakers, which self-test their own vehicles. It appears to be a new day for the auto industry and the claims they make on their window stickers. The big question for consumers is how much will car manufacturers have to pay them for falsified stickers. Consumer Watchdog wants to hear from you to make sure consumers get all they are entitled to.

Congressional Hearings Called For In Hyundai MPG Sticker Scandal

1:32 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Hyundai

Consumer Watchdog today called upon leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees to hold hearings into the revelation by the EPA that for the first time in American history large numbers of vehicles carried window stickers with false MPG claims.

The nonprofit consumer group wrote the EPA one year ago calling for retesting of the Hyundai Elantra after Hyundai’s self-tested MPG estimates were far different than many consumers’ experiences. Earlier this month, just prior to the presidential election, the EPA announced it had revised MPG claims and window stickers on many Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Consumer Watchdog today asked Congressional leaders to delve into whether the misstated mileage estimates were a direct result of a marketing strategy by Hyundai to advertise four of its vehicles, including the Elantra, as “40 Miles Per Gallon” cars.

“Americans deserve to know the whole truth when the fuel economy claims of a large number of vehicles have been misstated by one of the world’s largest automakers for the first time in American history,” wrote Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court to Senators Jay Rockefeller and Kay Bailey Hutchison of the Senate Commerce Committee and Representatives Fred Upton and Henry Waxman of the House Commerce Committee.

The letter requests that the companies’ chief executive officers be called to testify under oath and that relevant documents be subpoenaed.

The letter, which can be downloaded here, continues:

“One year ago, in response to consumer complaints, Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing concerns about the fuel economy MPG (miles per gallon) estimates advertised on the EPA window sticker of the Hyundai Elantra and requesting that the EPA re-test the Elantra. In January 2012, after it appeared that the EPA would not perform the testing, Consumer Watchdog then called upon the White House to direct the EPA to conduct such an audit. Earlier this month, on the Friday before the presidential election, the EPA issued a brief press release announcing that it had required Hyundai and Kia to lower MPG estimates and change the window stickers for the Elantra and ‘for the majority of their model year 2012 and 2013 models after EPA testing found discrepancies between agency results and data submitted by the company.’

“According to the EPA announcement, ‘EPA’s audit testing occasionally uncovers individual vehicles whose label values are incorrect and requires that the manufacturer re-label the vehicle. This has happened twice since 2000. This is the first time where a large number of vehicles from the same manufacturer have deviated so significantly.’

“As we wrote to President Obama in January, Hyundai’s deceptive MPG estimates has greatly disadvantaged American automakers, as well as the American taxpayer, whose full faith and credit have financially sustained those companies.

“We call upon you to hold hearings to give the American people more information about the Hyundai-MPG scandal.

“Unbeknownst to most Americans, automakers self-test their vehicles to determine the EPA MPG claim that appears on the EPA-mandated window sticker. Elantra drivers alerted us to the fact that their MPG experience was very different than the promised ‘EPA’ numbers.”

The “40 Mile Per Gallon Elantra” was the centerpiece of a massive television, print and radio advertising campaign aimed at convincing drivers that they would save money with $4 per gallon gasoline, when in fact drivers were routinely getting ten miles per gallon less than advertised. Hyundai widely advertised and promoted its four vehicles that received 40 miles per gallon — the Elantra, Sonata Hybrid, Accent and Veloster – but all were reported by the EPA as having falsified MPG estimates on their window stickers.

“We urge you to hold hearings in order to ascertain how Hyundai arrived at its ‘40 Mile Per Gallon’ claims and whether the South Korean company’s business strategy led to falsified mileage estimates submitted to the EPA and incorrect window stickers. The consequence of the incorrect window stickers has been a loss in sales by American car manufacturers whose MPG window stickers have not been found to be false and who played by the rules,” continued the letter.

“We believe the companies’ chief executive officers should be put under oath and documents related to the testing should be subpoenaed in an effort to understand the cause of the false mileage estimates and window stickers. The false testing that led to the conveniently round “40 mile per gallon” numbers on the window stickers of four vehicles is very likely to have its roots in a marketing decision at the highest levels of the company. Hyundai/Kia drivers and the American people deserve to know the truth and have those involved answer questions on the matter.”

Hyundai Elantra’s Poor MPG Frustrates Eco-Aware Drivers

5:43 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

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Consumer Watchdog has been highly critical of the gap between the Hyundai Elantra’s posted 29 city/40 highway MPG numbers and reality. We’ve asked the Environmental Protection Agency to re-test the Elantra, because even the most eco-aware drivers say they can’t reach those numbers, or the company’s 33MPG combined MPG.

Hyundai has responded that only people who “drive like maniacs” can’t equal the posted MPG, but here’s a complaint from the opposite of a maniac driver. Marc, an East Coast driver, told us:

I read your articles on the Hyundai Elantra with great interest.  While I really like the [Elantra], I have consistently had the same experience as you noted regarding gas mileage.  My combined mileage has never exceeded 29 and is usually between 26 and 28, my city mileage is in the low 20′s and highway mileage in the low 30′s at best.  What makes all of this troubling are a two factors.

First, I always drive in ECO mode and I drive with the goal of keeping the green eco light on all the time.

Second, I rarely drive in city rush hour traffic, rather most of my city, really suburban,  driving is in light suburban traffic, and it is a rare trip where I ever wait more than one light cycle to get through an intersection and travel speeds are typically between 35 and 45 mph.  On the highway, I am usually in free flow, tho 2-3 miles of my daily commute may be as low as 30-35 mph on some days – otherwise it’s 55.  I typically drive between 55-65 and don’t exceed that top speed with any regularity.  I recently returned from a 180 mile highway trip, using cruise control from 60-65 and my mileage was 33.7.  I’ve driven extremely steady highway trips of 40 miles and it’s always between 34 and 37.

So I’ve never seen the advertised mileage, no matter how carefully I drive.  It’s very frustrating because the city mileage is barely better than the what I was getting on the Audi A4 I traded in so I could get a high mileage vehicle.

People who don’t drive like Marc obviously get even worse mileage. Hyundai says that other cars also don’t meet their listed MPG in real-world tests, but our analysis of independent tests shows that the Elantra is at the bottom of the heap. And that is what we wrote Wednesday in a letter to Hyundai’s U.S. CEO. If even the most careful and light-footed driver can’t get to the listed MPG, Hyundai is deceiving the very people who its advertising targets.
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Posted by Judy Dugan, research director for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.