German auto maker Audi has hit back over claims levelled at it last week by the Korean government that the company had exaggerated its cars’ fuel efficiency claims.
The auto maker told reporters that its A6 TDI sedan model’s fuel efficiency statistics had “never been overstated” and said that the model complied to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s requirements to conduct tests and submit the results of these to the trade and transport ministries. According to Korean law, the results of such tests must remain within government-accepted margins of error.
However, last week, Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport criticized the auto maker, saying that the A6 TDI's fuel efficiency statistics had been overstated by more than 5 percent, with other reports claiming that there may be an even larger discrepancy. A figure of 10 percent was reported by one outlet.
A bone of contention in this case is the fact that late last year, the Korean government revised legislation that allows the government to apply its own analysis to fuel efficiency figures that car makers submit, allowing for only a 15 percent margin of error in all statistics, a figure that government ministries are now claiming has been exceeded by Audi.
Audi has been asked to submit further data for analysis, and the government is expected to make a ruling on the matter later this month. A government official stated that the relevant ministries had “urged Audi to explain” why statistics appeared to be incorrect.
Should the German auto maker be found to be at fault, the government may require Audi to take measures to compensate customers who have bought the popular model, over 10,000 of which have already been sold in Korea. Analysts, however, say that Audi will probably escape a fine as long as it takes steps to address potential customer complaints related to the matter.
In 2014, American carmaker General Motors compensated Korean buyers of its Chevrolet Cruze model after admitting a 9 percent discrepancy in its fuel efficiency claims.
Overseas carmakers will hope that the potential Audi setback does not have a knock-on effect on auto sales in Korea. Figures released to the Korean media have revealed that some 1.1 million cars made by non-Korean manufacturers have been sold as of April this year, which constitutes some 16 percent of Korea’s total auto sales market, a leap of over 15 percent over the last 15 years.
However, reports also told of how after-sales service centers were struggling to keep up with the increased demand that has resulted from this sudden spike in sales.