A class-action lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court contends that Hyundai Motor America misled consumers about the gas mileage of its 2011 and 2012 Elantra.
Filed just before the July Fourth holiday, the lawsuit is the latest in a rash of legal challenges to automakers over their fuel-efficiency claims.
Santa Monica, Calif.-based advocacy group Consumer Watchdog and a Washington, D.C., law firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Sacramento man. They seek unspecified damages for California residents who purchased or leased 2011 and 2012 Elantras.
Specifically, the suit alleges that Hyundai marketed the four-door, five-passenger Elantra sedan as "The 40 Mile Per Gallon Elantra," without government-required disclosures that the 40 mpg estimate was for highway driving only.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's fuel mileage estimate for the three trim levels of a 2012 Hyundai Elantra with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine in city driving is 29 mpg.
The suit alleges that Hyundai's "illegal" advertisements caused "tens of thousands of California drivers" to purchase or lease 2011 and 2012 Elantras and incur higher-than-expected fuel costs.
"I feel like Hyundai took advantage of me," said Sacramento's Louis Bird, whose name appears as the primary plaintiff in the suit. "Hyundai's advertisements about the 40 mpg gas mileage of the Elantra instantly caught my attention.
"I bought the car thinking I would be seeing major savings at the pump and getting over 500 miles per tank, but Hyundai fooled me. ... I have not saved any money on gas and have been driving the Elantra for well over a year now. It is frustrating and disappointing."
"Car companies are required to disclose certain information when mileage estimates are provided in their advertisements, and Hyundai ignored the rules," said William Anderson, an attorney for the law firm of Cuneo Gilbert and LaDuca LLP in the nation's capital.
A statement released by Hyundai Motor America, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., said the company "believes the case has no merit, as claims virtually identical to those of the plaintiffs have consistently been rejected by both state and federal courts in California, most recently in March 2012."
In February, a Los Angeles small-claims court commissioner awarded the owner of a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid nearly $10,000 in a case where the woman claimed that model fell well short of a 50 mpg standard touted by the automaker. That conviction was later overturned in Los Angeles Superior Court.
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