The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced a settlement on Nov. 3 resolving Hyundai's and Kia's violations of the Clean Air Act.
The two car manufacturers allegedly sold more than a million vehicles that were not made according to the certifications they disclosed with the EPA, translating into an additional 4.75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.
Aside from paying $100 million in fines, Hyundai and Kia will also forfeit $200 million in emission credits as these have not been rightfully earned, and they will also pay an additional $50 million to implement measures to prevent violations in the future.
"Businesses that play by the rules shouldn't have to compete with those breaking the law. This settlement upholds the integrity of the nation's fuel economy and greenhouse gas programs and supports all Americans who want to save fuel costs and reduce their environmental impact," said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator.
The $100 million fine Hyundai and Kia have to pay is the largest penalty ever imposed under the Clean Air Act. The car manufacturers are to pay over $6 million to the California Air Resources Board and over $93 million to the United States.
EPA limits on greenhouse gas emissions have been set for model years 2012 to 2025. Hyundai and Kia's 4.75 million metric tons of excess greenhouse gas emissions is equivalent to emissions released by one million passenger vehicles in a year; more than 11 million oil barrels consumed; more than 14 months of operation for a standard coal power plant; and energy used by more than 433,000 homes in one year.
Affected vehicles were from the 2012 and 2013 model years. These include the 2012 Accent, Elantra, Elantra PZEV, Veloster, Rio, Soul, and Soul Eco and the 2013 Accent, Veloster, Elantra, Elantra Coupe, Elantra GT, Elantra PZEV, Elantra GT PZEV, Santa Fe Sport (2.4 L and 2.0L Turbo), Veloster Turbo, Rio, Rio Eco, Soul, and Soul Eco.
The violations were uncovered when EPA conducted an audit of the affected vehicles in response to complaints from buyers that their cars were not achieving the mileage estimates officially provided by Hyundai and Kia.
According to the investigation, the car manufacturers apparently chose favorable test results over actual averages. Hyundai and Kia responded in 2012 by correcting fuel economy ratings for vehicles in the 2011 to 2013 model years, as well as creating a gas reimbursement program to cover increased fuel cost for vehicle owners.