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How my car company got mileage out of false claims

Celia Rivenbark

By Celia Rivenbark (TNS)

Published December 15, 2014

How my car company got mileage out of false claims

I drive one of those cars made by a company that recently got busted for lying about gas mileage and ended up having to return $300 million in cash and prizes (greenhouse-gas emission credits) to the feds and some customers.

A car company being less than honest about its product's performance?

How is such a thing possible in a just and peaceful world? All this time, I blamed my lead-footed driving style for the 6-8 miles per gallon difference from the sticker claim that was one of the biggest reasons I bought the car.

In fact, I distinctly remember asking the salesman: "Wow! 34 mpg sounds great. Is that really true?" And his response: "That's what the sticker says." Which, now that I think about it, isn't exactly a glowing endorsement. This is not a tiny car, and it has a fair number of bells and whistles, so 34 would be quite respectable if only it were true.

Of course, American women are accustomed to being lied to when it comes to numbers. We all know that we can wear a "4" at the nice store but a 12 at the cheap store. I prefer to split the difference and be totally honest and say I wear a 6.

We all fudge the numbers, so who can blame Kia/Hyundai for joining in?

The problem isn't just that they lied on the sticker; it's that they lied over a period of years, saying they were leaders in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Turns out, not so much. Even after they were busted by the EPA, Kia and Hyundai responded that it was true that they had accidentally miscalculated a bit but were still a leader in fuel economy. Fortunately the EPA rolled its collective eyes and said in an extremely paternal tone, "No, you're not. Please stop saying that you are." One more lie and they weren't going to get to go to Timmy's house for a sleepover.

Kia/Hyundai was engaging in a tactic marketing types know as "spin."

This is where you say something that sounds great but when its veracity is questioned, you find yourself telling an even bigger whopper to cover up the first lie and, next thing you know, you've faked your own death. No. Sorry. That was on "Days of Our Lives." But you get where I'm headed with this.

Alas, my Kia doesn't get 34 mpg on the highway but usually can muster 28 if I drive exactly 60 mph, don't run the air and set my jaw just right. To tell the truth, I would never have known the gas mileage was less than advertised if not for this handy little button on the steering wheel that tells the mileage instantly. Kia/Hyundai might want to rethink that. It's like how McDonald's now puts the calorie content right in big numbers next to the price of all its "food," and once you've seen something like that, well, you can't un-see it.

Celia Rivenbark

(TNS)

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Celia Rivenbark is the author of seven humor collections.

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