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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