Revealing the Truth: EPA Uncovers Proper Mileage

When purchasing or leasing a car, people often look at the gas mileage of their vehicle of interest. With rising gas prices, it’s no secret that people want to drive cars that can travel long distances without having to constantly stop to fill up. While saving money is one incentive, a commitment to protecting the environment can also play a role. Cars with higher miles per gallon use less gas, putting less strain on the environment in terms of resources consumed and pollution emitted.

This becomes an issue when car companies do not accurately portray mileage. The EPA has recently uncovered the truth about mileage for certain vehicles, as stated in this article by the Washington Post. According to the EPA, Hyundai and Kia have been overstating gas mileage on some of their vehicles in the past three years. This is a problem for consumers looking to buy a fuel efficient car, not only for financial reasons, but environmental reasons as well.

An article on Smart Planet also covered this story in a shorter and less detailed manner. Which article did you prefer? Did one journalist do a better job of covering the story over the other? Did one headline draw you in more than others? How did the use of quotes and statistics add to the articles?

An article in Forbes gives another side of the story. It describes the ways in which the EPA actually runs mileage tests. After reading this article, do you think the previous two accurately portrayed the truth? Should the journalists behind any of these pieces done anything differently to provide a more evenly balanced story?

 

EDIT: I originally included an article from The Chicago Tribune, but the link stopped working so I replaced it with an article from Smart Planet.

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12 Responses to “Revealing the Truth: EPA Uncovers Proper Mileage”

  1. Very relevant and interesting topic–thanks Jenna. As a car owner and recent car shopper, I can definitely relate to how much MPG matters when you’re looking for a car. I suppose it’s not surprising to find that these numbers are inflated somethimes, and we know based on the Forbes article that the numbers aren’t necessarily accurate anyway. But I definiely agree with the point in the Forbes article that the MPG numbers are mostly used for comparison–I don’t think there are many customers that religiously track their MsPG to ensure that they are getting what they paid for, unless it’s far different than what was advertised. Mostly, the customer wants to know if car A is better than car B.

    I liked the title for the Washington Post article because it specified that the EPA was behind the investigation, which makes it seem legitimate right away without you having to read it in the article first. I like the Tribune article more overall, however, because it was straightforward. It didn’t offer too much information or perspectives, just stated the facts. I think that’s important in an issue like this, when we don’t know if it was intentional or not on the part of the car companies.

  2. I thought all three articles were very interesting. For me, the Chicago Tribune article was too short to provide any substantial information. I thought the Washington Post article did a good job explaining the situation and the possible consequences car companies like Kia and Hyundai will face. However, I think the Forbes articles did the best overall job of covering the issue. First, not many people know how the EPA and car companies produce average MPG. I, probably like many others, assumed researchers drove cars around and measured energy consumption that way. I had no idea it was done in a lab. Also, I think many don’t realize that there can be variation between what the sticker tells you and how many MPG you actually get. I liked how it pointed out that what you actually get out of your car depends on how well the owner maintains the vehicle.

    Though not explicitly stated, the articles made me think about how much advertising influences the choices we make rather than research on our part before buying a product. This case shows us that we can’t necessarily rely on companies to provide truthful information, especially when there is profit to be made.

  3. Hi Jenna, great post! Just to let you know, I don’t think the link you provided for the Chicago Tribune article is working. It’s linking me to the main page of the Chicago Tribune but not the actual story. So, in regards to your question, I’ve compared the Forbes and the Washington Post articles and I genuinely do prefer the Forbes article over the Washington Post one. I think that the author of the Forbes piece, Jim Gorzelany, does an excellent job with detail and specificity in regards to mileage and the “fudge factor”. I also feel that it is quite an ‘opinionated’ piece, in that the author adds his own analogies e.g. “If, for example, you’re comparing two vehicles and one is estimated to get a third better fuel economy than another, it’s a reasonable assumption than you’d expect to pay a third more to keep the latter’s gas tank filled, all else being equal.” Probably from reading all my posts from the semester, you guys are well aware that I love an opinionated piece so I definitely prefer the Forbes article, mainly because I think it’s got more ‘attitude’ than the Washington Post piece. However, I think that the Washington Post piece is ideal for someone that wants to know about the issue but doesn’t want need to know that much so in saying that, I think the two pieces serve different purposes and it’s hard to say which one is actually better because they both do their job’s pretty well. The Forbes piece is intended for someone who is really interested in this issue, who knows about the technicalities of cars, and wants a lot of info. The Washington Post piece is for someone who wants to read about what’s happening without investing as much time, but someone who still wants a good deal of information on the issue.

  4. I am a classic example of a consumer that takes things for face value without looking for evidence or the research behind presented numbers. As I daughter of a GM employee this actually really surprised me that companies known for providing cars with better gas mileage lied about some stats. I could only read the Washington Post and the Forbes articles, and I think you did a great job of choosing articles. I liked how informative the Forbes article was because it highlighted a process that I probably would never have read about. After reading the Forbes article I believe knowing where companies get their stats and figures from is important, and questioning the companies should be done.

    The Washington Post article, while a little less informative, provided more of a story and expert quotes gave the piece a well rounded version. The quotes made the Washington Post article because the journalist really searched for people that were involved in all aspects of the story. The piece in general lacked pizzaz and the ending left me a little disappointed about the consequences that Kia and Hyundai might face. Hopefully a follow up story will appear soon.

  5. Hi Jenna, this was a really interesting post! I bought a new car this summer, and MPG was one of the top criteria for me when choosing a vehicle. I’m glad that this issue has been brought to light so that consumers are more aware when they see the MPG stickers on vehicles. I always thought that the ratings came straight from the EPA, but this makes me more questioning since the company itself sends ratings in.

    Similar to Neil, I couldn’t find the Chicago Tribune article that you were talking about, but I found the other two to be interesting reads.

    I was not aware of this scandal involving Kia and Hyundai, but it is definitely relevant as they have been increasing their sales here in the US. I think the Washington Post did a good job of covering the story, However, I wish they would have told the EPA’s side a little more. Is the protocol for testing MPG really as tough as the automakers are making it seem to be? Or is there some sort of evidence that this was an intentional way to boost sales for two brands that were not popular until they started boasting high mileage? I would have liked the author to dig a little bit deeper into the conflict, but overall I think it was an informative and concise article.

    The Forbes article was great because it showed the limitations of the EPA’s testing methodology. I had heard of dynamometer testing before, but this article took a deeper look into it than I ever had. The article leaves me with a lot of questions that hopefully will be answered when we visit the EPA lab here in Ann Arbor. Do the sticker ratings really reflect the performance of the car? How much does the driving style of the owner affect mileage? After reading this article I feel like the mileage stickers are mere estimates for fuel efficiency, whereas the rating is much more heavily reliant on the driver.

    Overall, two great articles. Thanks for sharing them with us!

  6. Thanks for sharing those articles Jenna! To begin, I definitely enjoyed the Washington Post article more than the SmartPlanet article. I think that it was way more informative and explained the situation of the companies very well. If I wouldn’t have read the Washington Post article before, I’m sure I would be left with many questions after reading the SmartPlanet article. I feel as though the Washington Post article did a good job of explaining the situation from the EPA’s perspective, as well as showing how the company has been effected and how they are responding. However, after reading the Forbes article, I realize that neither articles touched on the complexity of testing and how many different factors go into determining the gas mileage of a vehicle. The Forbes article shows how with all the different elements that go into testing, it can be understood how companies can get away with using lower numbers than the EPA might hope. One of the most interesting points of the article to me was the variance of gas usage depending on how new the car is and how broken it is. I always assumed that a vehicle would have the best mileage in the very beginning of its life, rather than after an initial 3,000-5,000 miles.

    That said, I think that both of the articles about Kia and Hyundai should have included more about the process of testing milage. I think that it would be very beneficial to the audience, giving them a more well rounded approach to the situation.

    Thanks again for the Forbes article! I found it very informative and useful.

    • I agree with Jenna – I preferred the Washington Post article. The Smart Planet article pretty much had the same information, but was presented so plainly that it was hard to imagine any controversy surrounding the issue – even though it is fairly scandalous. The Washington Post article added a bit of flair by looking into motives and making the issue seem like a big deal that everyone should be concerned about. Great post!

  7. Thanks for sharing these articles, Jenna. This is an interesting topic.

    I liked the Washington Post article more than the SmartPlanet article, for several reasons. The Post included more specific facts and figures and had perspectives from different players in the car world. For example, they provided a number, 79 million dollars a year, for how much automakers would have to pay car owners for the money they were “cheated” out of. SmartPlanet simply amounted it to what could “likely be millions of dollars.” The difference i the impact of these phrases is huge, to me. Gathering quotes from the car manufacturers, and seeing what they thought the mislabeled mileage was a result of was intriguing.

    I am left wondering if the companies and EPA are scapegoating each other to diffuse the responsibility for a scam, or if the mislabeling was the result of irresponsible, hasty testing. Whether the intention was there or not, some faulty work was done to get to this point, and certain people are responsible. It is important to pinpoint which steps of the process were handled incorrectly, to prevent the possibility of future scams or incorrect testing. It is also helpful to pinpoint who was involved to keep these procedures clean.

  8. That was a very interesting read. I also agree with Abby that the Washington Post article is more appealing to me becuse there is more data provided. There were actual numbers given about how many mileages the companies would have to take off the stickers, how much money companies would have to pay consumers, etc. I also feel like the journalists at the Washington Post are writing for a more broad audience then SmartPlanet therefore the content is easier to follow.

    I don’t think that either article is providing wrong information when saying that the mileage numbers were inaccurate. A way to improve the articles, however, is to include how the EPA audits the cars then compare where the companies got their numbers. This way the reader can understand where the numbers are coming from. A discrepancy in numbers may very well be a mistake, but the journalists should dig deeper and find out more about the issue.

  9. Hi Jenna,

    Great article. I liked the headline for the SmartPlanet article more, but of course the WaPo’s was more comprehensive. Forbes was interesting but only because it was more opinion. I thought this was interesting because I know car companies love to tout their gas mileage, and we all know that those numbers are false. It’s nice to see someone step in and say something about it. I really think journalists should dig deeper into such obvious falsehoods, but again it makes it difficult when there’s such a focus on remaining “unbiased” and seeming anti-business.

  10. Great compilation of articles with good questions!

    My first reaction is that I’m disappointed that the regulatory agency, the EPA, doesn’t have a way to protect the consumers and public more in this case of manipulated and misrepresented gas mileages. The power of the checks and balances set up by the federal agency have failed the customer/citizen.

    After reading all three linked articles, I enjoyed the array of angles and perspectives. The Forbes article was most interesting to me due to the shared insight of the actual procedures. I was impressed and it was easier for me to understand why the numbers were so far off. But overall, I am still disappointed in what seems like a deceitful practice of advertising gas mileage. I know that recently the EPA has developed standardized fuel efficiency sticker to go on cars’ windows in the show room. This is something I’m excited about. The regulatory powers of the EPA are being put to work and hopefully effectively executed.

    Way to go, EPA. And I’m sure that after I’m employed person, post-college, and looking for a car, I’ll thank you again.

    Information on window stickers can be found here:
    ( http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=bt1 )

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