Heather Peters is suing Honda in small-claims court in Torrance, California over the lackluster fuel economy she's gotten out of her 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. It isn't really a new lawsuit, it's one that sprung from Peters not signing onto the settlement of an earlier class-action lawsuit brought by one John True, who sued Honda over the same issue. The meat of the claim is that Honda's window sticker attested to an EPA combined 42 miles per gallon figure, but unhappy drivers are getting closer to 32 mpg.

True's suit was settled out of court in 2009 and plaintiffs have until February 11, 2012 to partake of redress that the Attorneys General of 26 states declared unfair. Peters didn't sign on, taking her own case to small-claims court where cases aren't tried by lawyers. According to Automotive.com, Honda's point man Neil Schmidt didn't appear at the previous hearing, who was at the first hearing but without subpoenaed documents or, apparently, compelling testimony, but this time he showed up and provided several dossiers to Commissioner Carnahan. Most of the paperwork submitted into evidence was reportedly "testimony from happy Civic Hybrid owners," which the judge dismissed.

Schmidt first suggested that Peters did not adhere to the right service procedures with her car, then Honda's EPA certification engineer said that Honda had no option but to follow the EPA's testing procedures. While that is correct regarding following testing protocol, Peters argued that automakers have the discretion to use lower fuel economy numbers in their advertising and on Monroneys if they see the need. Peters claims Honda didn't lower the number because it was trying to take advantage of "the green revolution."

Some observers believe the reduced mileage is an effect of a mandatory software upgrade applied to 2006-2008 Honda Civic Hybrids. The upgrade was meant "not just to prolong the life of the battery, [but] it also helps improve the performance." While there were complaints about the mileage before (as there are of a great many cars), it was after the upgrade that forums began to light up with tales of poorer mileage. That could have been because the upgrade reduced the car's reliance on the battery, a fix to allegedly offset the battery deteriorating more quickly than Honda anticipated.

Commissioner Carnahan is expected to rule on the case as soon as next week. Peters hopes it's before the February 11 deadline to participate in True's lawsuit settlement. At stake is not just the $10,000 Peters is seeking, but a figure potentially in the billions as other unhappy owners could flock to lawyer-free small-claims court to fight their cases. In the event of a loss, Honda is expected to appeal, to which Peters says, "I'm ready!"


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  • 72 Comments
      uthmedstoodent
      • 3 Years Ago
      Still getting 47mpg in my 06 Civic Hybrid with 195,000 miles despite driving 75mph average, getting the mileage-killing upgrade at 110,000 miles, and not actively hypermiling (I could get 50 if I tried again). I used to get 53mpg at the car's prime, but in hindsight, very glad about having the upgrade instead of having battery failure at 130,000 miles.
      XJ Yamaha
      • 3 Years Ago
      I thought it was the EPA that gave vehicles their mileage ratings?
        EXP Jawa
        • 3 Years Ago
        @XJ Yamaha
        OEMs test vehicles to the EPA's procedure, then report their findings. The EPA samples a small percentage of vehicles to verify the results, but mostly the numbers are based on the OEM's testing. With that said, the EPA cycle represents their interpretation of the average vehicle's duty cycle. A lot of people say that it isn't close enough to the actual typical usage, but the EPA has changed it several times to try to bring it closer to reality. I do think, however, that some vehicles test closer to reality then others. It seems that some vehicles are more sensitive to how far they stray from that procedure than others are.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @XJ Yamaha
        [blocked]
      Jon Smith
      • 3 Years Ago
      i know this car is a few years old, but i am getting 37mpg average in my 2011 mazda3, which is only rated at 33 highway. Its rather sad that the hybrid cant even pull similar numbers. I'll stick to a 5spd and careful driving for my fuel efficiency.
      ORMCRM
      • 3 Years Ago
      I read the article, and I am not an idiot, and I am officially claiming this lady needs to get a life. The EPA puts those numbers out. No company in the world is going to advertise weaker numbers than what the government makes them display. To claim they have a moral obligation to do so lame. There are so may variables to gas mileage and stepping on the throttle is probably the most effective way to limit your fuel economy. Drive fast, expend fuel. Pop a bike rack on your roof, expend fuel. the list goes on. Most Hondas get better than EPA and yes I take millions of owners lack of complaints over a few people who got a few bucks back on a class action. Besides, the lawyers set up these suites, get a bunch of people to sign on, and then collect the lion's share of the winnings. This lady obviously has nothing better to do everyday.
        ORMCRM
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ORMCRM
        @mike I was referring to the lawyers who bring these class action claims to begin with. This lady didn't want to settle for a few measly dollars while the lawyers got paid. It's a part of her 10 year plan, after this she will sue for burger king making her fat, and then it's onto SE Johnson because she sprayed windex in her cat's eyes and it burned and there is no warning label against spraying pets. What about suing navteq because she found a dirt road in arkansas that was missed in their last update. The bottom line is, there was a class action and she opted out to get more, I would bet half of us can not even change our own oil let alone engineer a Fuel/electric hybrid for mass production. Everyone's a damn expert of technology these days.
        Jerry Hightower
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ORMCRM
        Agreed. Also the more people in the vehicle the more weight you're carrying. I've never got the mileage on the sticker. Sometimes I'll get more, sometimes less. I hope Honda wins and she has to pay their lawyers.
          Mike Pulsifer
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jerry Hightower
          What lawyers? This is small claims court. If the defendant brought lawyers, that's their choice.
        Justin
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ORMCRM
        +11
      Anonimouse
      • 3 Years Ago
      It seems as if a good number of people have missed one point. After the vehicle was sold to the consumer, Honda apparently reduced the reliance on the hybrid battery. What would be the most likely affect of reducing reliance on the battery? It seems to me that the gas mileage would go down, and Honda would reduce spending on hybrid battery warranty replacement costs. My 2007 Civic Hybrid's mileage went down after they performed this update. This update did NOT improve performance in any way, shape or form. My mileage was 10 to 15% higher before the update. Ethanol did not come into play because I do not use it. Also, I have heard people state that you should expect your MPG figure to go down as the car ages. My car was 2 years old when this happened. No non-hybrid car that I owned ever lost this much mileage in over 5 years. Normally I do not believe in lawsuits of this kind as I feel that typically, only the lawyers win. Even though I do not expect to get much ($200 or less), I will take whatever I can get from Honda as they should not have done this.
      deeeznuuuts83
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's probably just another situation of ignorant drivers who expect to achieve window sticker mpg regardless of driving style. I had a stint at a car dealership once upon a time, and when with a customer taking a Prius for a test drive, he had the car floored on the onramp and was asking why the display was indicating only 9 mpg.
        DC
        • 3 Years Ago
        @deeeznuuuts83
        That is the common assumption held by most uneducated people. I own a 2009 Civic Hybrid, and I am averaging 30 MPG. The only way I can achieve mid-30's is by engaging cruise at 62 MPH on the highway, and I am willing to bet there are dozens of gas only cars that could do the same.
          Rico Suave
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DC
          I feel your pain, my subaru legacy awd gets about 32 on the highway. A family friend of ours has a civic hybrid and like the others his mileage has gone down at an atrocious rate. Hopefully Honda does something for you owners and this gets fixed asap.
        Rico Suave
        • 3 Years Ago
        @deeeznuuuts83
        Absolutely not, pedal masher don't usually buy a hybrid. This is a real problem that needs to be rectified.
      Dreez28
      • 3 Years Ago
      You gotta just love the stupid angles Honda is taking to argue this. "Our car is getting worse gas mileage than advertised because the owner didn't change the oil as regularly as suggested or this or that or blah blah blah." Nice Honda, fess up, fix your junk and offer buyers a reasonable settlement.
        graphikzking
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dreez28
        This is exactly why I bought a 10 year old car to mod. I see all these people with new cars and expensive exhausts saying "oh magnusson moss states they have to prove this part did the damage". Manufacturers simple answer will be - 50,000 units sold. NONE have trans problems. You increased your HP and now you have trans problems. Case closed. Even though we know it's not the case - they weasel out of a lot of things.
          q3a7vodk4
          • 3 Years Ago
          @graphikzking
          Read the warrantee. They only cover defects from the factory. If you can't prove they built it wrong, it's not covered.
      brucecornelius001
      • 3 Years Ago
      Please Sign her petition : http://www.change.org/petitions/urge-attorney-generals-to-object-to-honda-settlement. I got 28-32 MPG and was totally stonewalled and dismissed by the Honda dealer within days of buying my Honda Civic Hybrid and for the 2 years I had it
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Toneron
      • 3 Years Ago
      LOL!!! Other greenies got exactly what they paid for - warm fuzzy that others think they are saving the planet!
      Edward
      • 3 Years Ago
      Honda 1. makes unimpressive hybrid 2. exaggerates mpg numbers 3. responds to pissed buyers with laughable settlement 4. brings corporate lawyer to small claims to bully soccer mom. I can forgive number one. The rest degrade a reputation spent decades in the making.
      MJC
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have no idea how someone could only get 32MPG with one of these. I have a non-hybrid Civic, commute only on local roads (no highway), and make no effort to save gas, and I still get 30-33 MPG.
        Anonimouse
        • 3 Years Ago
        @MJC
        At one point, I was getting 38 MPG driving about 80% highway miles at 60-65 MPH and a light foot on the gas otherwise. The hybrid battery assist/charge meter was resetting very frequently to zero. Sometimes, when I hit the gas at a stop sign, there would be almost no response. The HCH weighs about 200 pounds more than a regular Civic. If the hybrid battery is effectively taken out of the picture, a 2900 pound car with a 1.3 liter (underpowered) engine can do worse than a 2700 pound car with a 1.8 liter engine.
          MJC
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Anonimouse
          Point taken...and actually, you've hit on the exact reason why I didn't waste the extra money on a hybrid.
        DC
        • 3 Years Ago
        @MJC
        Trust me, it is entirely possible. I
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