In a settlement the Justice Department is calling "unprecedented," Korean car makers Hyundai and Kia have agreed to pay a $100 million civil penalty and $250 million in other punitive measures for overstating the gas mileage on 1.2 million vehicles.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the civil penalty is the largest in Clean Air Act history.
"Greenhouse gas emission laws protect the public from the dangers of climate change, and today's action reinforces EPA's commitment to see those laws through," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a press release.
In a statement, Hyundai said it had reduced the combined city/highway fuel economy of a quarter of its 2011-2013 model year vehicles by 1 to 2 miles per gallon.
"Hyundai has acted transparently, reimbursed affected customers and fully cooperated with the EPA throughout the course of its investigation," David Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said in a statement. "We are pleased to put this behind us, and gratified that even with our adjusted fuel economy ratings, Hyundai continues to lead the automotive industry in fuel efficiency and environmental performance."
The AP adds:
"Also as part of the settlement, Hyundai-Kia must audit test results on current models, and it must set up an independent group to certify future test results, at a cost of around $50 million. And they must give up greenhouse gas credits worth more than $200 million. The credits could have been sold to other automakers who aren't meeting emissions standards."
Attorney General Eric Holder said the settlement represented the Justice Department's commitment to "ensuring fairness in every marketplace, protecting the environment, and relentlessly pursuing companies that make misrepresentations and violate the law."