General Motors (GM) announced last month that it will offer prepaid debit cards or extended warranties to owners of certain SUVs for fuel economy numbers that are overstated by one to two miles per gallon. It’s estimated that 135,000 customers will be covered by the reimbursement program. The automaker said it had to conduct new emissions tests on the 2016 Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave because of new emissions-related hardware. GM claims that the new numbers weren’t reflected in calculations for fuel economy labels, causing the numbers to be overstated.
GM said buyers will get to choose between a prepaid debit card and a four-year, 60,000-mile protection plan, which the automaker said is designed for high-mileage customers or those who plan to keep their vehicle for an extended amount of time. Those who leased their vehicles will be offered the debit card. According to GM, the average value of the debit cards will be $450 to $900, though the numbers will vary individually. The maximum payout for certain vehicles will be $1,500, according to GM.
The automaker said it based its calculations on a fuel price of $3 per gallon and 15,000 miles of driving per year over a five-year period, which it says is the same assumptions used in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) formula to calculate future fuel costs on the window label. Dealers were notified of the plan on May 20. Letters will be sent out to customers starting on May 25. GM says about 135,000 customers are expected to be covered by the plan.
The announcement of the reimbursement program came about a week after reports circulated that GM had instructed dealers to stop selling the 2016 Traverse, Acadia and Enclave while it corrected their fuel economy ratings. A class action lawsuit has also been filed, claiming that GM knew or should have known that its automobiles were being advertised and sold with misleading ratings. It was alleged by Sean Tolmasoff in the complaint that the company should have compensated drivers who bought their cars before the miles per gallon ratings were updated. GM claims that its reimbursement program was a GM customer initiative, and that the framework for the program was created and approved before Tolmasoff’s suit was even filed. Based on our history with GM, I find that very hard to believe.
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