Mistaken. Not Misleading.

Gary S. Vasilash

Back in 1999, NASA lost the Mars Climate Orbiter because the people at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who navigated the spacecraft, used the metric system and the people at Lockheed Martin Astronautics, who designed and built it, used the English system of measures. Things didn’t work out so well when the spacecraft reached the end of its 461-million mile journey.

This is not exactly what happened vis-a-vis the fuel economy ratings that Hyundai and Kia had been reporting before they decided, after discussions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to (1) voluntarily adjust their ratings for about 35% of the vehicles in the 2011-13 model years and to establish a reimbursement program for affected current and former vehicle owners. But it’s similar.

2012 Hyundai Accent

Hyundai Accent: 40 mpg no more

That is, tests were done at the companies’ facility in Korea, and the parameters that came out of those tests (coastdown testing) were then used to set parameters for helping determine the miles per gallon number. Unfortunately, the methodology provided numbers that didn’t track. Consequently, the 2012 Hyundai/Kia fleet fuel economy number is being reduced by an average 3%.

What had been 40 mpg highway numbers are now 37, 38 or 39 mpg.

NASA lost a $125-million spacecraft. While it isn’t clear what Hyundai and Kia are going to lose in terms of paying for the mileage discrepancies, it is probably a good bet that they’re going to lose some prospective customers who might be thinking that there was a bit of duplicity involved.

An error, yes. Duplicity, no.

And unlike the spacecraft, there is at least the possibility of recovery here.

Hyundai owners

Kia owners