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A Letter Can Change Things, Including EPA Standards

Four years ago, after an avalanche of complaints about Hyundai’s Elantra’s inflated mileage, Consumer Watchdog wrote the EPA about the problems with trusting automakers to self-test their MPG claims. Yesterday, the EPA toughened its testing procedures for the first time in a decade.

Unbeknownst to most Americans, the EPA doesn’t actually administer these tests themselves, which makes these new rules even more important.

Prompted by Hyundai’s exaggeration of Elantra’s fuel efficiency ratings, Consumer Watchdog led the charge against dishonest MPG claims, in the court of public opinion, and later in court. The actions result in the largest window sticker recall in American history.

In a 2011 letter to EPA officials we asked that Hyundai’s Elantra be re-tested to certify that their MPG claims were correct, citing a distrust of Hyundai’s self-certification,

“For instance, was Hyundai's own testing overly reliant on its low-power ECO mode (Which could be dangerous for drivers trying to enter a freeway, pass another driver or stay with traffic in hilly areas)? If so, do other makers with similar low- power modes test their cars in identical fashion? If not, that would make the Elantra's MPG claims deceptive.”

Consumer Watchdog followed with a 2012 letter to the White House that brought more concerns about the outdated testing model,

“auto buyers who seek better fuel efficiency lack information on which cars get the best MPG in real-world driving. Consumer Watchdog has also noted a wide gap between the EPA-certified MPG and real-world numbers of the Hyundai Elantra in both drivers’ and professional testers’ results.”

Now, finally, the EPA has toughened their guidelines for self-testing, leveling the playing field and forcing the auto industry to be more accountable for their claims.  It’s worth writing a letter. For all the unanswered ones, sometimes the right letter at the right time can resonate.