You can only fool people for so, and for years automakers have gamed the EPA’s fuel economy rating system, often delivering ratings possible only under the most ideal situations. Some of the worst offenders were Ford and Hyundai, which are being sued separately as part of class-action litigation due to false MPG ratings, and the EPA finally seems ready to act.
Automotive News reports that a recent proposal from the EPA would force automakers to prove their MPG ratings in real world driving scenarios. While some automakers already do this, others have gone to great lengths to inflate their MPG figures, even though most normal consumers come nowhere close to the advertised numbers.
Of course I expect the auto industry to lobby against this action, claiming it will drive up costs and lower fuel economy ratings. Yet for decades the EPA has allowed the auto industry to self-police its fuel economy ratings, with the EPA rarely actually testing the cars themselves. Automakers then share this information with the EPA, which is like trusting a fox to guard the henhouse, especially in an era where the MPG rating can be the determining factor in a new car purchase. As a result, Ford and Hyundai have both lowered MPG ratings of popular models AND financially compensated buyers, sometimes for $1,000 or more due to the MPG discrepancy.
In 2008 the EPA adjusted the fuel economy rating system, which led to lower but somewhat more accurate MPG ratings that took into account air resistance and aerodynamics. But recent events seem to have convinced the EPA that, at the very least, the current system isn’t delivering accurate results due to new technologies that are hard to calculate. At worse, automakers are taking advantage of a poorly-policed system that requires little or no follow-up. Let’s not blame all the automakers though; companies like Mitsubishi have made an effort to deliver real-world mileage ratings, and hopefully other automakers will follow their example.
Unfortunately, it may take an act of government to get them all on board.