More auditing, more fines needed
The writer performs automotive market analysis and forecasting.
To the Editor:
This is regarding Mark Rechtin's Nov. 12 comment, "Hyundai has been busted before."
Hyundai's transgression is far more serious this time. Window sticker numbers are derived by formula from regulatory compliance numbers. If the sticker numbers are essentially unattainable in the real world, there is a good chance the controlled laboratory compliance numbers are not attainable either. The EPA's audit uncovered precisely what was expected: a clear pattern of noncompliance, where self-reported results were not attainable or repeatable under specified test conditions.
The suggestion by Hyundai executives that Rechtin's experience with the Hyundai test vehicles may have been due to the condition of the test samples is outrageous. They don't tolerate dealers delivering out-of-adjustment, poorly prepped vehicles to paying customers. How could they excuse a single poorly prepped or maintained vehicle in their press evaluation fleet?
Hyundai's quickly prepared peace offering to its customers is also outrageous although quite predictable. The idea that harm done by an excessive mileage claim is limited to a year or two of fuel expenditures is absurd. Something like 2 mpg over the useful life of the car is more like it; 200 to 300 gallons for many of the smallest cars on the suspect list would be a reasonable range.
Any system based on self-reported, good-faith documentation is vulnerable. The only solution is more auditing, and the only fair means of assessing audit cost is to fine the violators.
I have wondered several times since the story broke: How would the South Korean government handle a similar situation if the suspected violator were a U.S. corporation operating in and importing into that country?