Read the Fine Print
Suing a company for poor fuel economy makes no sense.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: July 20th, 2012
Maybe it's a bit shady to advertise the best possible number and then hide the disclaimer in small print, but it's nothing new in advertising.
week or so ago, Hyundai found itself in the news when a consumer filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that his Hyundai Elantra doesn't deliver on the 40 mpg promise that the company touts in its ads.
While it's understandable that angry consumers might sue when they feel duped by what they think is false advertising, it's worth remembering that there's fine print in advertising. Not only that, but every Monroney label—the window sticker that's affixed to each new car—has this disclaimer below the fuel-economy numbers: "Actual results will vary for many reasons, including driving conditions and how you drive and maintain your vehicle."
This means that Consumer Watchdog, the group bringing the lawsuit, and Louis Bird, the angry consumer who actually filed the suit, may have a tough case. They allege that Hyundai's ads are misleading, but a whole bunch that we watched all had fine-print disclaimers stating "Actual mileage may vary." That's in addition to the disclaimer we mention above.
Even if Bird was driving his car in such a manner as to maximize fuel economy, traffic or weather conditions beyond his control could still negatively impact his numbers.
Admittedly, the EPA's standard test is a bit weak, but who can blame auto manufacturers for claiming those numbers, especially in a climate in which fuel economy is a major purchasing factor? I can't. Maybe it's a bit shady to advertise the best possible number and then hide the disclaimer in small print, but it's nothing new in advertising. Every automaker does it, and so do plenty of companies in other industries. And if the car was certified at 40 mpg by the government, then Hyundai has the right to make that claim, even if it won't hold true in harsher real-world conditions.
Yeah, it sucks being duped as a consumer. But consumers also need to arm themselves with more knowledge. Taking Monroney mileage claims as gospel is as foolish as paying full sticker price. And while it might be tough to bother reading fine print, it pays to do so before plunking down car payments for three to five years.
Maybe I'm just remembering my days working in a dealership service department when I had to explain to angry customers that the mileage numbers on the window sticker were only an estimate, but I find it annoying that consumers still haven't gotten this message about fuel economy. Gas prices have been sky-high since 2008, and there have been plenty of articles telling drivers that their behavior behind the wheel directly affects their mileage. Apparently, that message hasn't sunk in yet.
Go ahead, call me a shill for the automakers if you want, but I'm on their side on this one. If you're only getting 29 mpg from a 40 mpg car, maybe look in the mirror instead of running to the courts.Related Vehicles: 2011 hyundai elantra