Ever since I bought my first car back in 1988, my dad educated me on how the MPG works on a new car. Take whatever number is on the sticker of the car and reduce it until you can imagine yourself disappointed. That is the actual mileague you are likely to get.
Car manufacturers have been caught in the past fudging numbers on other performance areas of their products. Hyundai, for example, had apparently advertised better horse power than two of their engines actually produced, and then eventually settled on a class-action lawsuit.
But what happens when the Federal Trade Commission and the EPA are partially responsible for helping a car company deceive its customers? The example I will use will take us right back to Hyundai (full disclosure: I have happily owned 3 Hyundai vehicles myself and have never had much of a complaint about any of them).
Hyundai faces a new lawsuit with regard to their claim that the Elantra can actually get 40 miles per gallon. In about every car review and test drive report from various industry news sources, nobody has achieved the claimed 40mpg. So what gives?
Hyundai (and other carmakers) are hinging their defense based upon an interpretations of Federal laws concerning advertising (the way they are allowed to lie to you) and how the EPA numbers are calculated (the way they are able to generate false numbers to use in their lies).
It is not a very new concept that someone may introduce fraud to entice you to purchase their product. Sadly, it's also not new that the methods used to make fraudulent claims is endorsed by the very agencies that should be protecting you.
If government, at any level, has a useful role...it is to protect you from force and fraud.
In these cases, the for-profit car magazines did for the consumer what the government should've done in the first place. Instead, the agencies that were supposed to protect the consumer allowed corporations to hide inside their complicated rules and methodologies.
I would like to see the MPG fall under the scrutiny of private companies, using the Underwriters Laboratories model. Let companies advertise their mileage ratings as they're measured by organizations who only survive by maintaining a bullet proof reputation. It would be an improvement over the current endorsement of agencies that the public has long since given up trust.