Hyundai faces consumer lawsuit in Korea over overstated Santa Fe fuel efficiency

Article by Christian A., on July 8, 2014

Hyundai Motor Co. is facing a consumer lawsuit in South Korea following a disclosure of the country’s transport ministry that the carmaker overstated the fuel efficiency of its diesel-powered Santa Fe SUVs built between May 2012 and June 2014.

Around 1,500 owners of the SUVs have filed a complaint with the Seoul Central District Court, over the mpg overstatement, according to Kim Woong, managing partner at Yeyul law firm representing the consumers. A court official confirmed the filing to Bloomberg News.

The lawsuit could tarnish Hyundai’s reputation at its home turf where it is facing stiffer competition from imported brands like BMW and Volkswagen. Operations in South Korea generated 44 percent of Hyundai’s revenue in 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Lee Sang Hyun, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities Co., told Bloomberg that the lawsuit is “definitely bad news” for Hyundai since while the compensation cost may be relatively small, there could be possibility that the South Korean government may decide to determine if more vehicles failed to meet its standards.

Hyundai and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. have apologized in the United States for overstating the fuel economy of their vehicles in November 2012. That led the carmakers to issue debit cards to owners of around 900,000 cars and light trucks as a reimbursement for higher-than-expected fuel costs.

The carmakers agreed to spend up to $395 million to settle US lawsuits – paying as much as $210 million to owners of 2011-2013 model-year vehicles affected by the ratings.

Kim remarked to Bloomberg that the point of the lawsuit is to warn Hyundai that South Korean consumers can file a lawsuit the carmaker if its products are unsatisfactory.

He said that it is essential that “as many affected consumers as possible” participate in this lawsuit to show that South Korean companies would get a “red card” if they mess with customers. The lawsuit aims to involve up to 10,000 affected motorists, while seeking damages of KRW1.5 million ($1,500) for each, Kim disclosed.

Hyundai’s designers created the Santa Fe Sport and three-row Santa Fe at the same time, with the hallmark element distinguishable being the side window’s shape. Also, the bigger Santa Fe offers bigger passenger and cargo room behind the third-row seat. The Santa Fe also has specific character lines from the B-pillar back, grille styling, 18” Euroflange alloy wheels, chrome-tipped twin exhaust, and a flush-mounted tow hitch.

Both Santa Fes have trims with the same continuous interior appearance, designed for functionality and comfort. From optional heated rear seats and eight-way powered driver seat with four-way lumbar support to standard 40:20:40 folding rear seat, both versions claim flexibility and a pleasurable cabin for everyone.

Also new in 2013, standard on every Hyundai Santa Fe with cloth seats, a 'YES Essentials' seat fabric treatment providing soil-resistant, anti-odour, and anti-static traits for additional longevity and comfort. Special attention and care were given to other details, like an available panoramic sunroof, allowing in more natural light and sunshades for the rear side windows. Optional on every Santa Fe model is a push-button starter with proximity key, Electroluminescent Gauge Cluster with coloured LCD trip computer, and a heated steering wheel.

The three-row Santa Fe has more second-row legroom, increased by 1.9”, and 5.5 cubic feet more cargo capacity and has standard HVAC controls and vents for rear passengers to improve family comfort, and offering also a standard 50:50 split folding third-row bench seat with 31.5” in legroom. Second row captain's chairs are also optional on the three-row Santa Fe.

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