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AutoblogGreen Q&A: Civic Hybrid owner John True (he's the guy suing Honda)

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.

: 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 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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