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Auto blogTue, 19 Nov 2013 18:59:00 EST
Fri, 30 Nov 2012 14:16:00 EST
South Korea's two largest automotive brands are no longer the same companies they were when they first entered the world stage.
Anyone who visits Seoul after a few years absence is likely going to be in for a shock. What was, not that long ago, a decidedly third-world city is today a thriving, sprawling metropolis increasingly on a par with the world's most modern cities.
Hyundai and Kia have already gone public with plans to make good on the inflated fuel economy claims scandal that has rocked both companies in recent weeks. But one US senator, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), is skeptical that the general public will see much good from the proposal, and he's looking for answers.
To recap: Hyundai/Kia have agreed to compensate owners of 900,000 affected vehicles for real versus previously claimed fuel mileage (as well as adding in a one- fifteen-percent premium), by way of pre-loaded debit cards. It has been speculated that this payout could crest $100 million by the time the Korean automakers are done writing checks.
Said Rockefeller to The Detroit News, "While I believe this is a positive step, I am concerned that many affected customers may not learn about the program or may find it burdensome to participate in the program." Rockefeller would reportedly like to see a monitoring system for the paybacks more clearly defined, with the goal being as many wronged car buyers as possible getting the recompense that they're due.
In all of the most hotly contested mainstream segments of the motoring universe, the difference of one mile per gallon averaged on a widow sticker can mean the difference between a sale and a walk-off - to say nothing of two or three mpg. So, when Hyundai and Kia were forced to reveal that many of their 40-mpg ratings were actually 38s and 37s, well, it made for big news.
It also, conceivably, made for a competitive disadvantage immediately, when the Korean automakers' products were being shopped versus the guys down the block. And it's that disadvantage that makes a recent story from Automotive News so juicy.
AN is reporting that Margo Oge, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, got a tip in 2010 that Hyundai/Kia were "cheating" to get its impressive fuel economy numbers. The tip, said Oge (who retired from the EPA this past September), came from a senior vice president from a domestic automaker. The source was credible enough for Oge to launch an audit of the Hyundai figures, which ultimately lead to the debacle that we reported on a few months ago, and that the Korean company has been trying to bounce back from ever since.