WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) – Korean carmakers Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp will pay $350 million in penalties to the US government for overstating fuel economy ratings in what officials said on Monday was the biggest settlement of its kind.
The deal comes on top of $395 million the automakers agreed to pay last December to resolve claims from the owners of the vehicles, bringing the companies’ total cost for the mileage overstatements to more than $700 million.
Monday’s settlement with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Justice and the California Air Resources Board resolves an investigation of the South Korean carmakers’ 2012 fuel economy ratings.
The penalties were the largest ever under the Clean Air Act.
“This will send an important message to automakers around the world that they must comply with the law,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
Under the accord, which involved the sale of 1.2 million cars and SUVs, the South Korean car firms will pay a $100 million penalty, spend around $50 million to prevent future violations and forfeit emissions credits estimated to be worth more than $200 million.
The greenhouse gas emissions that the forfeited credits would have allowed are equal to the emissions from powering more than 433,000 homes for a year, the EPA said.
“Businesses that play by the rules shouldn’t have to compete with those breaking the law,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
McCarthy said Hyundai and Kia had committed the most egregious violation of the reporting standards. She declined to say whether other violators may also be fined.
“Every automaker will be looking carefully at its current testing procedure to avoid a similar penalty in the future,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com.