• May 9th 2012 at 4:00PM
  • 462
Heather Peters sued Honda after her car didn't achieve ... Heather Peters sued Honda after her car didn't achieve the MPG she expected (AP).
A judge has overturned a ruling that allowed a California woman to collect nearly $10,000 from Honda in small-claims court because her vehicle received lower-than-advertised fuel economy.

Heather Peters sued American Honda Motor Co. after achieving far less than the 50 miles per gallon she expected from her 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid, and improbably won a $9,867.19 judgment against the company in February.

Although he said Honda's advertising slogans amounted to "sales puffery," Judge Dudley W. Gray II said in his Tuesday reversal that they did not make specific MPG promises. His ruling noted that the majority of Civic Hybrid drivers came close to meeting the mileage estimate provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The decision, handed down in California Superior Court, is final. The state's laws do not allow for further appeals.

"It's a sad day when regulations designed to protect consumers are used against them," Peters said in a written statement. "I'm certain that the EPA and FTC never intended to shield Honda from liability for advertising claims that a court of law determined to be false."

The window sticker for the '06 Civic hybrid cites EPA mileage estimates of 49 miles per gallon in the city and 51 MPG on the highway. Peters said, at best, she got 37 MPG from her vehicle, and that fuel economy further deteriorated after Honda provided a software update for the car's battery.

In court testimony during the appeal, a technician said he achieved an MPG average close to 50 in an '06 Civic Hybrid. But Peters' actual vehicle was not tested during the litigation.

In a written statement, Honda said it was pleased with the ruling, "which affirms that Honda was truthful in its advertising of the fuel economy potential of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid."
The lawsuit had attracted considerable attention within the auto industry, not only because automakers have trumpeted their fuel economy ratings in attempts to attract shoppers concerned about rising gas prices, but because Peters had opted out of a class-action lawsuit over the same issues with Civic Hybrids built between 2003 and 2009.

When she initially won in February, her victory emboldened others dissatisfied with the $100 to $200 proposed settlement, which also came with a rebate off future purchases. According to court records, 1,705 people opted out of the settlement, which gave them the leeway to, like Peters, pursue an individual case.

In reality, few have followed her path. Only 18 have brought small-claims court lawsuits, and Honda has prevailed in 17 of the verdicts, according to spokesperson Chris Martin. The class-action lawsuit, Lockabey v. American Honda Motor Co., was settled in March.

"We are never satisfied when a customer is anything less than satisfied with one of our products, and the company does not relish the necessity to defend the truth in opposition to any of our customers," Martin said in a statement.

Although the victories have been good for Honda, there have been other disconcerting numbers. Last year, sales of the Civic Hybrid fell 37.1 percent from 2010, dropping from 7,336 to 4,703, according to sales figures from Autodata Corp.

So far this year, those numbers may recover. The Civic Hybrid had sold 2,862 units through April, which puts it on pace for 8,586 annually in 2012. But the Civic Hybrid lags behind competitors like the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which have already sold 86,027 and 15,143 units through the first third of the year.

"Of course I'm disappointed," Peters said in her statement. "But I'm still glad that I raised awareness that Honda is no longer the great brand that it used to be. They used to go the extra mile in customer service. Now they go the extra mile fighting customers in court."


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  • 462 Comments
      Pete
      • 3 Years Ago
      Trust me.....I will never buy a Honda after reading this.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Oh, Waaaa! These people buy these cars and continue to drive like Racers evey where they go. In my travels I am passed buy these car going 20-30MPH over the limits constantly. Why would they think they will get advertised milage? I think the court made a good dession on this. The way you drive is 50% of your milage..
      dsnj71
      • 3 Years Ago
      I once had a honda but I hit a squirrel and broke it
      • 3 Years Ago
      It would then seem that: 1) The car manufacturers and sales staff never use the EPA numbers for advertising and convincing their potential customers, 2) The small claim court judge did not have full understanding of laws (to put it simply, he is a fool), 3) The primary role of governmental regulatory agencies is to protect businesses from citizens
      Art
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have owned 5 Honda cars from 2000 to 2008 they all got better then advertised MPG.
      toddisit
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sales puffery? Never heard that one before. Either something is true or not true. I don't think the law of common sense applies in most courts.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @toddisit
        Puffing is claiming your product is the best. This is legal. False advertising is making factually untrue claims in order to sell a product. This is illegal. The entire argument in the appellate court is which one of these Honda was doing.
      • 3 Years Ago
      corporations are people too, just look at the supreme court ruling, its a free for all for all the idiots ( including the all powerful multinationals who espouse lies as truth, dolts, we are consumers only and make nothing but Assembly parts made by slave labor along with child labor and the poisons they make them with, fluoride being a toxic substance from the manufacture of aluminum that gets sold to water treatment plants instead of having to pay to dispose of the toxic substance. there are countless substances that they add to food that fit this scenario. wake up and use your pc to learn something besides your state indoctrination called school. these kids don't even know what the constitution is no less the war of 1812 which was the second most important war in American history. he wins writes the history and he who controls the money controls the world. you all have slept too long
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have a '97 Honda and when my wife drives it, she uses twice the gas going half the miles as I do.
      Sterling
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm not buying a honda either and what a surprise they won appeal. How much did ****** make on that ****** judge? Apparently this new trend of blotting, and over stating the facts has been over looked. Exsample:Kraft foods just got fined for not one,not two, but several product shortages. They couldn't say how long the american people had been getting ripped off, but they found consistent shortages, if it said a pound it was two onces short. Americans a watching what they are getting for there dollar. So don't try to snow us And if your a grocery chain complaining Im using to many coupons by stacking a manufacture coupon on top of your sale-"to bad". It's your system. The american public have just learned to use the system "YOU" set up better.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Anybody with half a brain knows that the car companies "embellish" their claims of gas mileage. They almost never meet the standard set by the advertising. They come up with those figures by running the cars on a dynamometer which does not come close to approximating real gas mileage. That said, I'd be happy if my car got 37 mpg.
      pscarpelli
      • 3 Years Ago
      My brother owns a Civic Hybrid, and fuel economy is very disappointing. His hybrid gets 33 mpg at a steady 75 mph on the highway. My 505 horsepower Corvette gets 32 mpg at 75 mph. Honda has misrepresented the car.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Final, for that case. Now is it possible to expand outward and bring up the same points elsewhere. It'd be great maybe for her to provide witness elsewhere to Honda's discord.
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