Clarification: Margo Oge says she didn't single out Hyundai and Kia when she started the testing. Oge says she was concerned that there be a level playing field among manufacturers and asked her team to test a number of high-volume models as part of the first certification for greenhouse gas standards.
A complaint from a U.S. automaker led the EPA to investigate Hyundai-Kia's misleading mpg numbers, a former agency official tells our Washington reporter.
But which automaker dropped the dime?
Margo Oge, who retired in September as head of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, says a "credible" senior vice president from a domestic automaker called her in 2010 to accuse the Korean brands of "cheating" to get inflated mpg numbers. Based on the tip, Oge launched an audit that led Hyundai and Kia to admit they made bogus fuel-economy claims.
"One tenth of an mpg makes a huge difference for these companies," says Oge, who would not identify the tipster or the company.
A run through the short list of suspects turned up two no's and one not-quite-no:
- "It's not us," Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne said.
- General Motors said it wouldn't go to the government if it needed to resolve a dispute with a competing automaker. "We don't conduct our business in that manner," GM spokeswoman Sharon Basel wrote in an e-mail.
And what about Ford?
- "We cannot comment on any specific discussions, but Ford routinely speaks with policymakers about a wide variety of issues affecting our industry," a company spokesman wrote in an e-mail. "We have been -- and remain -- an advocate of driving real fuel economy gains because it is in the best interest of our customers."
Lest one assume that the finger points clearly toward Dearborn, we hasten to add the thought that not all PR people know what all senior vice presidents are doing all of the time.