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Southern California musician John True recently filed suit against American Honda Motor Company over their mileage claims for the Civic Hybrid. In an era of rising fuel costs he thought the hybrid would help save some money but his new car failed to come anywhere near the numbers Honda was advertising. He came up against the hard reality that hybrids don't always give you any mileage benefit if your driving patterns don't match certain specific conditions. You'll never find that in an ad for a hybrid. Mr. True agreed to talk to ABG about his experience and what he is doing now.

AutoblogGreen: I'm talking to John True today. Mr. True, why don't you give us a brief recap of the story, what's going on with you and your Civic.

John True: Basically, when we bought the car the salesman told us, I guess, everything that we wanted to hear. We were going to buy a Ford, I think it's the Ford Hybrid.

ABG: The Escape Hybrid?

JT: Yes and when we found out that allegedly the Honda Civic got 50 miles or 51 miles to the gallon that would have been better for us. We're both musicians, my fiancé's a singer, I'm a pianist, and when you live in Southern California if you want to work you have to travel, so we're in Ontario and we travel a lot into Orange County, a lot into South Orange County, and with my keyboard and amp and all the sound stuff. So we knew we probably wouldn't get 50 miles a gallon but we thought what the heck, you know, if we get 40, 45, that's okay.

Read the rest of John True's unhappy hybrid story after the jump.

JT
: But we have tried everything, first of all, we always use the synthetic oil like they recommended. We keep the tires inflated. As far as the air conditioning, in Southern California we have to use the air conditioning, okay? And being musicians we like to listen to the CDs and whatnot so we also do that, but other than that we're just normal Southern California drivers, we don't speed, and the best gas mileage we have gotten so far, we made a trip in the car to Vegas, coming back we used the cruise control. We got 34.6 miles to the gallon, that's the most we've ever done. Yeah, and we've tried everything else.

ABG: Have you tried talking to the dealer to have the car checked out and make sure everything is functioning properly?

JT: Several times, including the manager. And it was the mechanic that works over at Penske Honda. I mean, he just kind of shook his head, you know, he said I don't know why they tell you that. And I said what do you mean? He says well, just between you and me, I don't know of any car that's getting that kind of gas mileage. Any Honda Civic. So I guess we're not the only ones.

ABG: Right. Generally I think everybody pretty much expects that they're going to get less mileage, lower mileage than what's advertised. I think maybe in your case it is obviously quite a bit lower than what's advertised. In the driving conditions that you typically experience how much below the advertised mileage have you typically gotten in the past with previous cars that you've owned? Here we're talking about 30, 35 percent below the advertised mileage with the Honda.

JT: Yeah we own an '89 Ford Taurus and we own a '91 Mercedes Benz 320 and we really don't drive the Ford Taurus hardly anymore, it's kind of just parked, but we drive the Mercedes Benz a lot. We rotate with the Honda Civic and honestly I don't really keep tabs on the mileage on the Mercedes Benz. It gets pretty good gas mileage, but not great, not great at all. But, I've only really become gas mileage conscious in the last two years with the soaring prices in Southern California where we live.

ABG: Sure, that's understandable.

JT: It's really become an issue. So, you know, this is the first time I've ever purchased a car on just that strength. The gas mileage. You know, I think the Honda is a really nice car, the Honda Civic, except they should not have lied to us about the gas mileage. Because we would have kept on shopping and comparing.

ABG: What do you hope to achieve from your lawsuit? Do you want Honda to change their advertising?

JT: Absolutely. We're getting lies from the top down, from our political leaders, from these people that advertise, talk out of the side of their mouth, fast food chains and whatnot, somewhere along the line it's hey guys, put on the brakes, you know?

ABG: Have you considered trying to include, and I don't know if you even can, if it's possible – including the EPA in the lawsuit because obviously the mileage figures that Honda advertises and that all the other car makers advertise are generated by the EPA. They're not generated internally by the car makers, so have you looked at that possibility?

JT: Well, that would be up to our lawyers. But I think they're all in bed with each other. God, they've gotta be kidding. You know, we're big boys and girls here, so they've got to be accountable for that crap that they issue that they're trying to pull the wool over our eyes, and make it sound real official. I mean, you can say anything right?

ABG: Just to go back a little bit to the driving conditions that you typically have, do you typically drive in an urban environment or is it more freeway-type driving?

JT: Freeway.

ABG: Mostly freeway?

JT: Freeway, freeway, freeway. We live on the freeway.

ABG: So you don't get a lot of stop-and-go driving then?

JT: No.

ABG: I'm not sure what your knowledge is of the way hybrid systems work but they typically get their primary benefit during urban stop-and-go driving when, when they can do more regenerative braking and I don't think the car makers really advertise that aspect very much, that they generally don't get much benefit in freeway driving for the most part.

JT: Right.

ABG: Well, is there anything else that you'd like to add?

JT: Well, somebody told me that all the advertising in a couple of years has got to be on a realistic basis. I don't know if that's a rumor I heard.

ABG: For 2008, the EPA has revised their fuel mileage rating system. In fact, all those numbers, the 2008 numbers, are posted fueleconomy.gov where they've got the revised numbers posted now, but even, even the revised 2008 numbers for the Civic Hybrid are 40 miles per gallon city and 45 highway, so it's gone from 49, 51, but it's still quite a bit more than than what you've achieved in your driving.

JT: Yeah, very unrealistic.

ABG: So they've tried to make the, the numbers more realistic but I think they're probably in some cases still on the high side.

JT: Yeah, they're still fudging. They're should come to Southern California, drive on the 405, drive on the 210, drive on the 57, all these are freeways, these are like our streets you know? This is Southern California. It's like a big cobweb of freeways And you can't really survive without going on the freeway.

ABG: Well, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today.


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  • 74 Comments
      • 6 Months Ago
      First, folks should keep in mind that the HCHII gets better highway than city -- just the opposite of the Prius. I drive 180 miles a day to and from work, 95 percent of that on I-83 or I-95, and I've *never* done worse than 51.6 mpg overall on a tank in my 2007 HCHII. My wife's a leadfoot and she gets in the mid-40s.

      My guess is that Mr. True overloads his car with equipment and keeps the gas pinned to the floor to keep from getting flattened on the onramps to the 10. It's a 1.3l engine, dude!

      I don't think he's got a chance with this suit, as Honda may claim the required use of EPA-generated numbers as a defense. I'd write to tell him how to get better mileage, but my lawyer advised against it.
      • 6 Months Ago
      I am quite surprised by how many of you guys, who are basically consumers, are so willing to blame the consumer and take the corporations side of it. There are laws that protect consumers from false and misleading advertising. That means that even if advertising is not false, it is still wrong if its merely MISLEADING.

      We have these laws for a reason, the corporations are better situated to bear the burden of this risk since they are the ones in control of the process and they are profiting from the process. while consumers are in a much worse position to protect their own interest.

      So, if you want to feel superior to this guy, you can make fun of him say he assumed the risk or he was contributorily negligent... but the truth is, he is the average American consumer with all his faults and he's standing up for our interests. The businesses that make money off of us through unsavory business practices should bear the burden. They should not be absolved of their wrongs by the inherent shortcomings of the average consumer.
      • 6 Months Ago
      Either this guy drives like an idiot (surging the throttle up and down a lot, always hauling 500lbs of music gear, always running AC, always in So Cal traffic), or something is wrong with his 1 car (lemon). Either way it's not worthy of class action status.

      Get them to fix your car, or learn how to save fuel with your right foot.

      The only thing your suit may accomplish is making car manufacturers refuse to tell you the MPG in their specs or even when you buy the car, they will just tell you to get the information from the EPA.
      • 6 Months Ago
      I drive a 1998 Nissan Maxima with 233890 miles at last check. Recently, I have been commuting to and from work, 120 miles round trip, and averaging 28.5 mpg @ 60-65 mph. This was in summer w/ac and radio on with moderate traffic. Go figure.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is ridiculous. If you aren't EXPERIENCING the issues, you really have no clue what you are talking about.

      A few points on how I ended up where I am today. I own a 2008 HCH with 37,000 miles which was purchased new on 5/5/08.

      1. I purchased a new car ONLY because I was buying a Hybrid and wanted the warranty protection for battery, etc since this is relatively new technology.
      2. I purchased the Honda HCH rather than the Toyota Prius because the HONDA was rated at higher mileage on the highway than in the city and most of my driving is highway. There were many forums where owners confirmed their fuel economy averaged 50 mpg.
      3. The ONLY reason I purchased a Hybrid was for the gas mileage, I gave up options and sportiness that was not available in the Hybrid.


      Why has no one asked the following questions (or have they?)

      1. SOME of the HCHs get 50 mpg, as does the one my colleague purchased weeks after mine. For the first 6 months, I also saw 47 to 54 mpg. Now, the average is 32 to 35, with the same driving conditions, commute, time of year, driving habits, DRIVER, etc. Several people I work with see 45 to 55 mpg in the HCH consistently.

      Has Honda been asked to explain or investigate the cause?

      2. There were software updates applied by the dealer when my car was in for an oil change which may have caused my fuel consumption to CHANGE. Why are they not responsible for CORRECTING the vehicle performance to what it was originally? They made a change to a vehicle AFTER I BOUGHT IT that caused PERFORMANCE DEGRADATION.

      Why aren't they responsible to CORRECT the issue they CAUSED? I didn't ASK for software updates.

      3. Prior to the software update, my IMA battery was consistently at 7 or 8 bars out of 8. NOW, most of the time, after a short drive the bars have dropped to 2 to 4. Recently, I saw the battery at 7 bars and reset the mpg calculation, as long as I drive 45 to 50 mph and the IMA battery is at 7 or 8 bars, I see 50 to 55 mpg. Unfortunately, ANY highway driving results in an average of 34 to 36, even after 30 miles at 57. As soon as I'm on the highway, the IMA battery is at 4 bars or less, even though assist doesn't show more than 1 or 2 bars, if any. I have photos of my dash when I left my driveway at 7 IMA bars, reached the turnpike 2 miles away at 4 bars and saw 2 bars less than 10 miles later.

      Why are they not REQUIRED to replace the battery which CLEARLY is not behaving as it did for the first 6 months? I purchased an extended warranty, and Honda isn't even honoring the manufacturer's warrany? I'll beat the crap out of the car and have it replaced. I'm sure we'll see improvement at that time.

      4. When I contacted Honda America, I was told "As long as the dealer says there's nothing wrong, there's nothing wrong with the car". Let's consider a change in performance, rather than relying on "the computer says it's fine". Keep in mind, computers are PROGRAMMED and their logic and performance is often flawed. My car spent 3 days with Piazza Reading Honda (PA) twice and 7 days with Roberts Honda in Downingtown (PA). The computer shows no problem, but no one has acknowledged the fact that the IMA battery charging is behaving DRAMATICALLY different than previously.

      Why aren't they responsible to CORRECT the issue they CAUSED? I didn't ASK for software updates.

      5. How can Honda sell vehicles which are supposedly GREEN, which get no better fuel economy than the STANDARD CIVIC? I received a $1500 federal tax credit and another $500 from the state of PA because I purchased a Hybrid. Others who purchased nonhybrid vehicles which see the same fuel consumption should be FURIOUS. Aren't they entitled to a "green credit"?

      Perhaps the federal government would be interested in this DEFECT.

      6. How can they charge a premium for the vehicle which doesn't perform as PROMISED? There's obviously a significant Quality Control issue. I essentially driving a standard Civic which I paid an extra $6500 for since the standard Civic gets the same fuel economy. The difference is, I'm stuck with the maintenance of the battery and the aggravation of owning the car. My blood boils just looking at the IMA gauge. Perhaps I should beat the crap out of the car until the IMA light comes on. It is parked in my garage at 32000 miles and I've purchased a GREEN 1999 6 cylinder Maxima with 170,000 miles, which gets nearly the same fuel economy.

      How can they charge a premium for the vehicle which doesn't perform as PROMISED? How is this not "bait and switch"?

      7. I realize recalls are generally safety related, but when the IMA battery is at less than 4 bars, there is no Assist when you accelerate. I learned this as I was on the turnpike getting out of the way of a Semi. I
      artv200
      • 6 Months Ago
      If JT's mileage numbers are accurate, I would suspect that the hybrid system is malfunctioning. The (smaller) engine is working harder than it is designed for, hence the lower mileage figures. Could be a bad battery connection. It is just surprising there is no check engine light on. Honda's reputation for quality and performance is riding on these new hybrids. I would expect them to go over the car with a fine toothed comb. This is a soluble problem.
      • 6 Months Ago
      I got about 43.5 mpg with mine right out of the box and it has increased since it's getting broken in to 47 mpg. I mostly use the cruise control instead of the gas pedal to accelerate and watch the gauge to monitor my mileage. Can we all please bring a frivolous class action lawsuit against this fellow for being ignorant and frivolous?
      • 8 Years Ago
      THis guy should have looked a little closer at the Monroney sticker. If he looked below what the EPA posts for gas mileage, he would have seen the best and worst case scenerios. That's where they derive their numbers from. And if he was doing city driving it would be much better.
      Or he could've bought a full hybrid like the prius, instead of a mild hybrid, like the civic.
      • 8 Years Ago
      We have an '03 Civic Hybrid and average 43.2 MPG combined city an HWY. You will get 50 MPG on the HWY in this car if:

      1.) You consistently drive 60mph
      2.) the road is perfectly flat
      3.) there is no other traffic

      SoCal freeways aren't exactly known to be traffic free - this guy is averaging pretty good gas mileage for the conditions.

      Toss this suit.
      • 8 Years Ago
      My dear ol' mum's '05 Toyota Crayola CE averaged about 36MPG driving the two of us from Austin to Dallas for a family weekend. It was hot, so the AC was cranked, we had music on, the traffic wa crappy so we were constantly slowing down, speeding up and occasionally coming to complete stops. Yet we still averaged better in a low-tech econobox than this particular Civic Hybrid. I say particular because some friends have one and have yet to get less than 45mpg on the highway, regardless of driving conditions.

      I think he might just have a lemon.
      junglejack
      • 6 Months Ago
      yea those Hondy's work wonders and shit cucumbers...
      junglejack
      • 6 Months Ago
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