/ Motoring

‘I went to court when my car didn’t meet its mileage claims’

Filling petrol tank

Our post on Convo last month about differences between claimed and actual car mileage prompted you to tell us your own stories. It’s a problem many of you have clearly faced, but how far would you go for a solution?

For Doug Clement, from Donegal, the answer was all the way to court.

Doug was so annoyed when his car failed to achieve the fuel economy that he’d been promised that he took legal action against the dealer – and won.

Our recent research found that 98% of the 200 cars we put through the same test couldn’t match or beat their miles per gallon (mpg) claim.

New Hyundai failed to meet MPG claim

Doug came across the problem when he bought a new Hyundai i10 in late 2010, after a salesman in the showroom assured him that he would be able to get the 57.6mpg, which it had been claimed for it on what is called a ‘combined cycle’ – this includes driving in towns and cites, and the countryside.

But Doug found there was no way he could squeeze that much out of the tank and so he told the dealer he was rejecting the car. The dealer refused him a refund, which was when Doug decided he’d have to go to court.

It took two years, but the court did eventually find in Doug’s favour – and interestingly the reason given was that he had specifically asked about fuel efficiency when he bought the car.

Because he couldn’t match the official mpg figures quoted by the salesman, the car was deemed not fit for purpose under the Sale of Goods Act and the dealer was ordered to pay a full refund.

The case is not considered to have set a precedent, but the decision does suggest that courts will take similar cases seriously – so make sure you ask in the showroom about fuel economy. Even better, try to get the dealer to commit to it in writing.

Fuel efficiency – drivers tell Which? Car Survey it’s a major issue

Being unable to match fuel efficiency is one of the big issues that drivers tell us about each year in the Which? Car Survey.

For example, the sixth-worst car for missing fuel economy claims in our most recent research was the Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Of the 63 owners who gave feedback on their car last year, 12 complained of poor fuel economy.

Have you ever asked a dealer about fuel efficiency? Would you ask them to write this figure down?


Good result.

When fuel efficiency is a critical factor in the choice of a car, put the seller on the spot, effectively making it ‘the essence of the contract’. Other features that are essential to your own requirements can be treated similarly. The same applies to any purchase where as a buyer you are relying on a particular perfomance characteristic that (a) you have raised with the seller and (b) the seller has assured you will be met. If you can’t get it in writing, write to confirm your understanding of the position.

Using a credit card to pay a minimum of £100 of the total purchase price also gives consumer protection in the event of a dispute.

It’s high time retailers woke up to the implications of the Sale of Goods Act and its successor the Consumer Rights Act coming into force in October this year. The more consumers exercise these rights all the way to the Court the better it will be. I wonder if, in this case, the car dealer had words with the manufacturer, and what will happen next.


The only consumption figures manufacturers are allowed to publish are, I understand, those derived from the EU NEDC tests. These come with a warning that they do not represent real life driving. They are for comparative use only. Don’t rely on these for a claim; you will need a statement, presumably in writing, from the dealer as to what consumption you will get. In view of the variation between drivers, journey types, terrain etc I doubt anyone with any common sense would give such a statement.

I have noticed on one website that the manufacturer gives a single fuel consumption figure without, as far as I can see, any qualification. I have asked them to explain this and wait to hear. It would be interesting whether this could give rise to a claim.


Congratulations to Doug Clement for doing what many of us could and should have done in the interests of justice.

My understanding is that car manufacturers prepare their cars for the fuel economy/emissions tests in various ways that will return better figures than a motorist might achieve. Examples of preparation include taping-up doors, using special tyres, over-inflating the tyres, removing parts to decrease the weight of the vehicle, using special oil, pushing pistons back into brake callipers, disconnecting the alternator, and so on. Though there may be no cheating in the tests themselves, manufacturers that play these games should hang their heads in shame.

There may be valid reasons why the outdated tests are not updated promptly but there is nothing to stop tests being carried out on unmodified vehicles.

It has been pointed out that the fuel economy figures published by manufacturers are not intended to reflect what the motorist can expect to achieve, but these figures are still used in marketing. When I replaced my car in 2012 I was looking at two models – one with a petrol and one with a diesel engine. I casually asked what mpg ‘I could expect to achieve’ and the experienced salesman reeled off the test figures, as I had expected. He received a pre-prepared lecture about being honest to customers.

John is spot on about making your requirements clear. That applies when making any purchase, but is particularly important when buying something as expensive as a car.


“these figures are still used in marketing”. As I understand it these figures, but only these figures, must be published by the manufacturer according to EU regulation. Anyone know differently?


The salesman lied to me, Malcolm. I gave him the opportunity to let him say that the figures he had quoted were just the test figures and not what I had asked for.

Why do you think it is acceptable for a manufacturer to specially prepare a car so that it returns higher fuel economy figures than most motorists could achieve?


As I said above if you are given false information about fuel economy by the retailer they should be held liable. The fact that the EU test cycle allows manufacturers to prepare vehicles is the fault of those who published the standard, not the manufacturers. You need to remember that these tests are designed to produce comparative figures, not real life, and they will remain comparative if they are carried out on the same basis. Out of interest what preparations in particular have a significant effect on the results that will give any one manufacturer an advantage?

Criticism might be levelled at the EU don’t you think? Unless we find out facts to the contrary.


Malcolm – As far as I am aware, it is standard practice to carry out tests on actual production samples when independent test laboratories are involved, so I don’t see why car testing should be any different. As John has pointed out below, you cannot have comparative figures if different manufacturers modify their cars in different ways. I read that one manufacturer even reprograms the engine management computer before tests are carried out. I don’t know which particular preparations will push up the official mpg to the greatest extent.

I have not paid much attention to criticism of the current EC testing, but even if there are fair criticisms these in no way justify the manufacturers preparing their vehicles so that they perform better during tests. I believe that most people would regard it as dishonest to prepare a vehicle to enable it to produce better fuel economy figures.

What if I – as a customer – was to prepare a vehicle while the salesperson was out of the showroom. I could switch the price label, put in a spare wheel and a set of car mats, and then innocently say that I would take that car. 🙂


The car fuel economy article in the May 2015 edition of Which Magazine is very apt in my case. I purchased a new Audi A4 2.0 tdi Allroad back in November ’14 – I have had the vehicle 6 months.

Initially I gave the vehicle the benefit of the doubt re fuel consumption; I had winter tyres fitted and fuel consumption is usually slightly more in Winter. Having recently changed to Summer wheels/tyres the fuel consumption did not alter. I contacted the Audi dealership where I bought the vehicle and they promptly offered to have a look at the car, software, etc. (Aberdeen Audi have been very helpful and I have no issue with them).

My average fuel consumption over the 6 month period, on a Combined Cycle, is 38.44 mpg. This equates to the Audi published Combined Cycle figure of 47.1 mpg – in other words Audis ‘published’ figure is 18.39% overstated. If the fuel consumption figures were the odd % out I could live with it. It is just so far out that the difference jumps at you; and I find it hard to comprehend that an Audi 2.0 tdi engine cannot return over 40 mpg (I have yet to see this – even on long haul motorway driving and keeping within the speed limit. Prior to the A4 Allroad I ran a 2.0 diesel Subaru Legacy Boxer and returned mid 40’s MPG on a long haul run, i.e., my driving pattern has not changed.)

My annual mileage is approx. 15K therefore I will need to purchase 323 ltrs more diesel than anticipated. Cost wise at £1.20 per ltr (estimated average price going forward), this works out to £387.60 per annum. I have eMailed my Audi dealership and copied Audi Customer Services to ascertain how they are going to compensate me. I have yet to hear back from Audi directly and the dealership have asked me to keep them informed as to how I get on with Audi!

It was interesting to read that Doug Clement, from Donegal, received a court ruling in his favour for his Hyundai i10 fuel consumption being overstated, with the Court seemingly ruling in his favour because he asked about fuel consumption at the point of or prior to purchase. Surely it has to be irrelevant whether you ask about fuel consumption, performance, etc, prior to making a purchase. Either published material is correct or it is not. If a supplier (of anything) is knowingly publishing inaccurate data they are technically in breach of contract which, in the case of us ‘mug motorists’, entitles us to return something which is not fit for purpose as bought or request compensation to offset a definite loss.

I will see what Audi come back with, but if there is not a willingness to make redress I shall be contacting Trading Standards.


I can’t understand why people blame the vehicle manufacturer for (a) complying with the EU regulations and (b) aiming for the best result under those rules. Doug did have the right idea when he asked the salesman to confirm he would be able to achieve the published figure. Don’t expect one manufacturer to quote “realistic” figures – after all we all use our vehicles in different circumstances. And who would go to the manufacturer who says my equivalent model does 15% less miles to the gallon than anybody else quotes? Be sensible, just use the published figures for comparison and ask the seller to confirm what economy you are likely to achieve in practice. I think we would all be amazed how quickly the vehicle retailers in Europe would force a change in the EU rules!


If you modify a vehicle so that it performs better in a set of tests you are using ‘unfair means’ to obtain an advantage over other companies. I have borrowed that term from higher education, where it is used as a euphemism for cheating.

Would you trust Which? testing if manufacturers supplied products? I would not because of the risk that they might be carefully checked or even modified, so that they were better than what you or I could buy in the shops.

What is wrong with honesty? It could be a powerful marketing tool.


If a manufacturer or retailerquotes you a fuel consumption without any qualification then you would have a case. If you ignore the caveat applied to the figures the EU requires the manufacturer to publish then I see no case. The deficiencies in the outdated NEDC test cycle, the laxity in the standard, dictated by the EU have been well-aired on another conversation. It is no good ignoring these issues as if, despite all its shortcomings, the existing EU test should somehow still deliver real life figures – something it was never claimed to do. It simply depends upon how the fuel consumption of your car is presented to you by the manufacturer or retailer.

Best place is to look at Honest John or other collections of figures that motorists have provided for their “real life” performance – like spritmonitor.de. The latter shows the large variation that occurs in practice.


Testing of products that feature in Which? reports is, I believe, done on products purchased in the same way that you or I would buy them. I can see various benefits of this and I trust Which? testing, even though I would prefer to have more information in many cases.

Why should car manufacturers be allowed to prepare their cars before testing? Why not just test cars exactly as they are sold to the public?