Hyundai hit with slew of class-action suits in U.S.

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Hyundai hit with slew of class-action suits in U.S.

Class-action lawsuits are piling up against the U.S. operations of Hyundai Motor and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors after they admitted to overstating fuel efficiency ratings in their models sold there since 2010.

Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman said on Wednesday that it filed a suit with the federal court in Santa Ana, California, on Friday (local time) seeking $775 million in damages on behalf of 23 car owners.

According to the law firm, people who own or lease Hyundai or Kia vehicles in California challenged the Korean automakers’ compensation plan. After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation, the affiliates of Hyundai Motor Group announced that their customers would receive a debit card reimbursing them for the difference in fuel economy, and that an extra 15 percent would be added to cover any inconvenience.

However, they must also visit dealerships to verify mileage and fill out cumbersome “claim forms” every year, which has irked the plaintiffs, according to local media reports.

The litigation was followed by a separate suit in the Southern District of Ohio this week on behalf of three consumers seeking compensation for the reduced value of their vehicles. They are seeking damages of more than $5 million.

Meanwhile, before the announcement last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that Hyundai and Kia’s models failed to meet their advertised fuel ratings, the automaker was already being sued by a public interest group, Consumer Watchdog, for misleading consumers about the fuel efficiency of its 2011 and 2012 Elantra models.

Hyundai-Kia is also facing group law suits in Canada after admitting that 172,000 vehicles sold there also offered worse fuel economy than was stated. According to Canadian newspapers, class-action lawsuits were filed against both automakers in Ontario on Monday, with similar suits following on Tuesday in Quebec, British Columbia and other Canadian provinces.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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