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Senator wants payments to Hyundai, Kia customers

DETROIT (AP) -- A key U.S. senator is asking top executives of Hyundai and Kia what they're doing to make sure car owners are reimbursed for the companies' overstating gas mileage on more than 900,000 vehicles.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wrote letters to U.S. leaders of both companies on Thursday saying he's concerned that people may not be told about company offers to pay owners, or that the program may be too much of a burden for people to take part.

Hyundai and Kia overstated mileage on 13 models during the past three years. The inflated figures were uncovered by the Environmental Protection Agency in an audit of gas mileage tests. The agency, which monitors fuel economy, is investigating how the companies came up with their numbers. Automakers do their own mileage tests following procedures set by the EPA, and the agency enforces accuracy by auditing about 15 percent of vehicles annually.

The EPA found that the window sticker mileages were overstated on about one-third of the cars sold by the companies during the 2011 to 2013 model years. As a result Hyundai and Kia will have to knock one or six miles per gallon off the vehicle stickers of most of their models.

Company executives said the higher mileage figures were unintentional and they pledged to reimburse customers for the difference between the mileage on the window stickers and the numbers from the EPA tests.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, wrote that he is monitoring the EPA investigation of the inflated mileage to see how federal agencies "can deter similar violations in the future."

A California consumer group called for Congressional hearings on the matter, but Kevin McAlister, a spokesman for the Commerce Committee, said hearings don't appear necessary at this time because the automakers have aggressive reimbursement programs.