Earlier today, Hyundai-Kia announced a massive refund for approximately 900,000 cars the EPA says had overstated mileage claims (car companies typically send the mileage numbers, based on computation, to the EPA). It's a huge PR loss for the company after all the cheerleading they did over the fact that they had four vehicles that got better than 40 MPG.
In an attempt to make things right, the two brands are offering reimbursements for the difference (+15%) based on mileage/gas prices where you live. This equals about $100 per 15,000 miles for the life of the car, disbursed in the form of a debit card.
"I saw the story this morning and my first thought was: I wonder how many minutes before the first class action is filed?" Legal expert and automotive historian Steve Lehto, who wrote The Lemon Law Bible, tells Jalopnik.
Hyundai denies that this move has anything to do with warding off a possible class action lawsuit.
"The two (class action and reimbursement) aren't related," says Hyundai's Jim Trainor. "We just wanted to offer all owners reimbursement and 15 percent extra for inconvenience. What they do beyond that is up to them."
It's unclear whether or not taking the money will disqualify you for a lawsuit.
"They probably will ask you to sign a release (or equivalent) which will bar you from suing them over these same claims," says Lehto. "If they didn't ask consumers to sign such an agreement, it would lead me to believe that the Koreans haven't got a firm grasp on the good old litigious US of A."
Ultimately, though, suing is probably not in your best interest Lehto believes.
"The actual question here is how does an owner make this benefit them the most? If you are part of a class (I'm sure you've seen this) you will get a coupon somewhere down the road good for a couple bucks off another product, and the coupon's cash value is almost always de minimus."
I.e., you get an envelop that looks like junk and contains something of almost no value.
"My advice (based on what I've read so far) is to take the debit card and run."