I was wading through my inbox this morning when an interesting advertisement screamed from the sidebar. The advertisement was from McCuneWright, LLP a Redlands, California-based law firm that’s looking to capitalize on the current MPG (mile per gallon) craze. Apparently, McCuneWright “has filed Federal class action lawsuits against General Motors, LLC, and Hyundai Motor America, for affirmatively misleading advertising of estimated miles per gallon fuel efficiency.” While I’ve grown blind to inbox ads, this couldn’t help but catch my eye … having devoted the last five years of my life to the study of real-world fuel efficiency.
It’s not exactly clear what McCuneWright is after, other than a significant chunk of fees. Yes, a number of manufacturers are stating the highway MPG figure in their advertising and marketing materials, rather than the combined figure. Are they putting undue emphasis on this? Or is the problem more at the local level, where car dealers control the advertising? Can the manufacturers be blamed for lousy radio commercials, banners in dealership windows, billboards, and local newspapers ads – all placed and paid for by the dealerships?
What about the guy that scrawls stuff on the windshields of the cars on the dealership lot? Will his shoe polish hand lettering be drawn into a class-action suit?
To be clear, it is the auto manufacturers that develop the city and highway mile per gallon numbers. They present these numbers to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and it is up to the government to either say yay or nay, or to require further testing. A federal government lab does not test each and every model sold in America, every year. If you think there is, well, I have a used car I’d like to sell to you. I’ll throw in a bridge in Lower Manhattan. And a pony. (You want a green pony? Bring in the green light.)
The law firm of McCuneWright, LLP touts themselves as “the Inland Empire’s premier complex litigation practice.” I don’t want to invoke their ire. I just want to bring light to the fact that in this case, the Emperor is not fully clothed. There are many variables at play with regard to the fuel efficiency of any given vehicle. Your Mileage Will Always Vary … that’s why the EPA has included city and highway mileage ranges in tiny fine print underneath the Big Bold numbers on window stickers … until the 2013 model year. (If McCuneWright really wants to tilt at a gas mileage windmill, why don’t they go after the EPA for removing that highly informative fine print?)
I applaud McCuneWright on a number of levels. They’re spending their own money to get the word out about the topic of fuel efficiency. My self-funded independent research has shown that some manufacturers are more aggressive than others when it comes to submitting those numbers to the EPA. But from where I sit (behind the wheel), I can’t see a class action lawsuit being successful. Real world gas mileage is always the responsibility of the driver; MPGs are always the result of how, where, and when you drive.
Awareness is crucial. If you eat a lot of fast food (consuming excess fats and sugars) and fail to exercise, you will gain weight and your health will suffer. If you don’t pay attention to all of your vehicle’s maintenance issues and drive without regard to how heavy you are on the pedals, your vehicle’s real world gas mileage will suffer.
It’s up to each of us to take responsibility for our daily lives. Behavior effects outcome.
Note: With specific regard to Hyundai, this might be easily nipped in the bud, with a rebate coupon for a new set of low-rolling-resistance (LRR) tires for owners of the models in question. A LRR tire swap would incrementally raise highway efficiency. Cover my expenses and I’ll volunteer to do the testing.
– by Daniel Gray