GM’s Fuel Economy “Misprint” Somehow Shows Up At EPA Website

The correct fuel economy rating for this vehicle, from the EPA's website today.

The correct fuel economy rating for this vehicle, from the EPA’s website today.

GM has told its US dealerships to stop selling 2016 model-year large crossovers while it replaces Monroney stickers that show incorrect fuel economy ratings, according to a huge Automotive News [sub] scoop.  The stop-sale documents obtained by AN call the mislabeling an “inadvertent error,” and a GM spokesman tells them “an ‘inadvertent data transmission’ was responsible for the mistake.” This excuse would be thin under any circumstances, but two factors make it seem especially implausible. The first is the timing: GM was just caught using an apparent “defeat device” in Europe after months of allegations of emissions cheating. The second is the nature of the misprint: the incorrect ratings were just 1-2 MPG better than the correct numbers, strongly indicating GM was trying to get away with slightly too-good-to-be-true numbers.

But there’s even more direct evidence that GM’s “misprint” story isn’t true: a Daily Kanban review of the EPA website using the archive.org Wayback Machine shows that those (higher) incorrect numbers were displayed on the EPA website before being changed sometime this year. In other words, the fuel economy ratings that GM says were a “misprint” were submitted to the EPA and listed as the official rating before being changed to the new, lower rating.

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As the world spins: The mystery of the missing sales

Inside the truck wars black ops...

Inside the truck wars black ops…

Spend enough time looking at anything, and patterns eventually emerge; stare hard enough at auto industry news, and you can discern the movings of the PR teams who craft the messages that drive 95% of all auto media content. Spend enough time reading and a sweeping drama emerges: one side probes a competitor at a point of perceived weakness, the defender digs in or counter-attacks, a problem appears from nowhere while another problem fades away, yesterday’s non sequitor becomes today’s news.

In the polite world of the auto media, the journalist’s role on this battlefield is to be the straight man: to merely repeat each feint and parry in this informational melee as if they were the weather, or stock prices. Even the combatants themselves will back away from any direct confrontation when pressed, caught between the pull to ruthlessly compete and the inherently conservative culture of all large corporate communications departments.

But the battle for reality is constantly being waged in the auto industry… and the action is always most exciting when the stakes are highest. Which is what makes GM’s new truck launch the perfect case study.

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