If you drive a Hyundai, or a Kia, and you’ve ever run out of gas—it may not have been your fault. On Monday, the Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia agreed to what amounts to a $300 million settlement with the Justice Department for overstating the gas mileage figures on the window stickers of more than a million of its cars. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the padded fuel economy figures were generally boosted one or two miles per gallon depending on the model, but the EPA found the Kia Soul’s fuel economy was jacked up by a hefty six miles per gallon.
Under the settlement, the Korean car companies, both of which are owned by Hyundai Motor Group, will pay a $100 million fine and, the Associated Press reports, “forfeit greenhouse gas credits worth more than $200 million because the affected vehicles will emit about 4.75 million more metric tons of greenhouse gases than the automakers originally claimed.” The carmakers also settled a class-action suit last year, which pushes the total cost for the companies to more than $700 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Hyundai blamed the inflated mileage on honest misinterpretation of the EPA's complex rules governing testing,” the AP reports. “All automakers do their own mileage tests based on EPA guidelines, and the agency does audits to make sure they are accurate. In the past two years, the EPA has stepped up audits of automaker tests.”
Part of the problem, the EPA said in a statement Monday, was that “[i]n processing test data, Hyundai and Kia allegedly chose favorable results rather than average results from a large number of tests.” The automakers agreed to change the window stickers in November 2012 after an EPA audit. Hyundai and Kia, however, are not the only auto companies to pad their fuel efficiency numbers. Ford and Mercedes-Benz have also lowered the m.p.g. number on some models and BMW recently was told to slash mileage estimates on the Mini Cooper.