Honda's Mendel chides automakers for inaccurate fuel-economy claims
Photo credit: Joe Wilssens
DETROIT -- American Honda's top sales executive chided automakers caught by federal regulators for overstating their fuel economy numbers.
"Aggressive fuel-economy claims that turned out to be not so accurate puts pressure on all of us," John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president, said today at the Automotive News World Congress. "Competitive pressure should never let us betray the trust of our customers."
Mendel noted that the public's perception of the auto industry "doesn't rank tremendously high."
He added: "Something that happens to one of us affects public trust in all of us."
He didn't name specific automakers.
Last year, an EPA investigation found discrepancies between the fuel-economy test results reported by Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America and those conducted by the agency itself. The findings came after Hyundai had hitched its marketing to being the industry's most fuel-efficient brand.
Since then, similar allegations also have dogged Ford Motor Co. vehicles.
Hyundai spokesman Chris Hosford was in the audience at Mendel's speech, but declined to comment, other than to say: "Mr. Mendel is welcome to his opinions."
Kia spokesman Scott McKee said the automaker had no comment beyond what can be found at the kiampginfo.com Web site. The site includes a transcript of the conference call in which Hyundai and Kia top executives apologized for the errors and offered compensation to affected owners.
At the time, Hyundai CEO John Krafcik said: "When we say to Hyundai owners, 'We've got your back,' that's an assurance we don't take lightly. We're going to make this right and we'll be more driven than ever to ensure our vehicles deliver outstanding fuel economy."
In response to a query, a Ford spokesman said in an email that early C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid customers “report a range of fuel economy figures, including some reports above 47 mpg, reinforcing the fact that driving styles, driving conditions and other factors can cause mileage to vary.”
He also said Ford is “working closely with the EPA” to determine if any changes to the rating testing procedures “are needed for hybrid vehicles.”
In December, the EPA said it will review Consumer Reports' data and findings that showed Ford's two newest hybrid models fell below the company's promise of 47 mpg.
The EPA's move comes after the magazine said it found the Ford Fusion hybrid, at 39 mpg, fell 17 percent short of the company's claim while the C-Max hybrid, at 37 mpg, fell 21 percent short of the claim.
Ford advertises that each model will achieve 47 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Those automakers have been hit with class-action suits, the possibility of federal fines and untold damage to their reputations. A top Ford executive said Tuesday the EPA may change its testing procedures, but there was no immediate comment from the EPA in a Bloomberg report.
Many automaker executives admit that the pressure to hit rising corporate average fuel economy targets is extreme, but Mendel cautioned that fudging the numbers makes the public not believe what they see on the window sticker.
Said Mendel: "Doing it right doesn't mean extra credit."
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