Mini Latest to Admit Mislabeling MPG

EPA to revise testing procedures, make numbers more accurate.

by on Oct.23, 2014

The Mini Cooper's mileage numbers have gotten a downgrade from the EPA.

Mini has become the latest in a line of automakers who have had to admit they were overstating their fuel economy numbers.

The British marque’s 2014 Mini Cooper actually gets anywhere from one to four miles per gallon less than originally claimed. The BMW subsidiary’s error follows in the tire tracks of Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Hyundai and Kia, all of which also have had to roll back their mileage claims.

Keeping it Accurate!

Meanwhile, many consumers groups continue to complain that they’re routinely seeing real world numbers that lag what manufacturers post on their Monroney window stickers and use in their advertising. That’s leading to stricter enforcement and likely changes to testing procedures by the Environmental Protection Agency which oversees fuel economy regulations.

“Fuel economy values matter to consumers and automakers,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “To provide consumers with the most accurate, reliable and repeatable fuel economy values, we are continuing to strengthen our oversight to ensure fair competition among automakers.”

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Ford was the first maker to get snagged by an audit of its mileage numbers and testing procedures, the biggest gap impacting models like its C-Max and Fusion hybrid models. Hyundai and sibling Kia were later caught up in a similar audit process. The Korean carmakers ultimately agreed to a significant payout to owners of the affected vehicles – such as the Kia Soul.

Earlier this month, Mercedes-Benz was found to have overstated the mileage of its C300 4Matic sedan by one mile per gallon in the City, Highway and Combined categories.

Mini’s recently updated 2014 Cooper and Cooper S models will now have to restate their mileage ratings, as well. The base 3-door with a manual transmission, for example, was originally rated at 30 City, 42 Highway and 34 Combined. That’s been revised to 29/40/33. The Cooper S 3-door with a manual sees its figures drop from 25/38/29 to just 24/34/28. Automatic transmission models lose one to three mpg.

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The Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, and fuel economy ratings systems have come under repeated criticism over the past four decades. Consumers often complain they don’t get near the stated mileage.

Part of the problem is that fuel economy can vary widely, depending upon factors such as climate, altitude and driver behavior. But industry observers also fault EPA testing procedures – and the fact that manufacturers usually run their own tests for the under-staffed federal agency to then review.

In particular, the so-called Coast-Down test has come in for sharp criticism. It is intended to measure such key factors as a vehicle’s aerodynamics and the mileage-robbing friction within its drivetrain.

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The EPA has been increasing the number of audits it conducts since the Ford and Hyundai/Kia mileage gaps were uncovered. And, by year-end, it intends to revise key elements of its testing, according to Christopher Grundler, director of the agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality.

“Especially these days, when things are so competitive and customers are saying, ‘This is my No. 1 purchase criteria,’ it seems to me that [the EPA and the industry] both would want to have as much confidence as possible that the label value represents a good number,” he told trade publication Automotive News.

The EPA has revised its mileage testing procedures on a number of occasions over the years, most recently in 2008. That last effort was particularly focused on hybrid-electric vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, which often had some of the biggest gaps between rated and real-world mileage numbers.

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5 Responses to “Mini Latest to Admit Mislabeling MPG”

  1. Jorge says:

    SOS, DD.

    There is no way in the world to make an EPA mpg test that is going to be accurate for all people or even the majority of people because independent testing shows that mpg varies as much as 30% and sometimes more just by driving style. If people’s buying decision is based exclusively on a 1-2 mpg difference between vehicles, then they totally mis-understand the EPA mpg rating which is meant to be a reference point in a standard test.

    It clearly states on the new vehicle window sticker “YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY”. It says that for obvious reasons because not only driving style but climatic conditions and even road conditions and terrain have a very significant impact on mpg. Thus a person living in sunny flat AZ should expect better mpg than a person living in a colder, mountainous region – yet consumers have no clue what so ever about driving styles or the impact on mpg.

    I don’t in ANY way condone mis-stating the true EPA test results. Consumers failing to achieve these numbers in daily service is NOT a legitimate reason for a lawsuit or compensation by an auto maker if they have properly conducted and reported the EPA mpg test mpg.

    The real problem is that the majority of the U.S. populace is technically ignorant and the EPA fails to educate them on what the EPA mpg test is and why it’s just a reference point and NOT a guarantee in mpg – for the obvious reasons listed above. Once again the EPA is failing the technically challenged populace.

    • Ash78X says:

      Jorge, so what if the car’s mpg says 47 mpg, but you can only get 40? That’s what got people angry about the C-max numbers, because it originally claimed 47/47/47 (city/highway/combined).

      Then people found out those numbers were impossible to achieve. Ford then had to downgrade the mileage not once, but twice! First it was downgraded to 45/40/43, then 42/37/40 mpg.

      While it was on their hybrid, some people may be concerned with that, especially that large of a drop in mpg.

      Meanwhile it’s really easy to get 50 mpg combined or more in a Toyota prius, unless you have a lead foot and routinely drive it 70-75 mph on the freeway, or drive it for really short distances before it can warm the engine up much.

  2. EAJ says:

    You both make good points and as both point out, it depends on HOW you drive your vehicle. I constantly hear people complain about their Civic’s, Scion whatever, Fiesta, Cruze, Sonic getting less mpgs than rated, which the only reason they bought the vehicle was for the great advertised mileage. But everyday I see these same people dart in & out of traffic, drive like bats out of h— and the sort. Well, drive with a lead foot and that lead foot is going to sink you, i.e. mileage.

    And the funny thing about that advertisement is most only talked about / claimed incredible highway mileage; nothing about city or combined, at least not until recently.

  3. Ebuxton says:

    Monroney, not Munroney.

    Wikipedia: “The window sticker was named after Almer Stillwell “Mike” Monroney, United States Senator from Oklahoma. Monroney sponsored the Automobile Information Disclosure Act of 1958, which mandated disclosure of information on new automobiles.”

    Oops…

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Yep, and I DO know better. Sometimes the brain and the fingers do not connect. Thanks for the catch!

      Paul E.

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