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Small Claims Court Winner Continues Her Case Against Honda

Evening Edition

Above: Heather Peters, who won a small claims judgement against Honda because her car wasn't fuel efficient enough, talks with Joanne Faryon about the case.

Aired 2/14/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Guests

Heather Peters is the owner of a Honda Civic Hybrid. She sued Honda in a Los Angeles small claims court and was awarded a $9,867 settlement after proving that the carmaker's fuel economy advertisements were misleading.

Steve Semeraro is a professor of Law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

Transcript

Heather Peters stands next to her Honda Civic Hybrid.
Enlarge this image

Above: Heather Peters stands next to her Honda Civic Hybrid.

Statement from Honda

"American Honda intends to appeal the decision in Peters v. American Honda due to the substantial factual and legal errors reflected in the written decision." More...

Heather Peters claimed Honda misled her about her Civic hybrid’s fuel economy, so she took the car company to small claims court and won.

A judge awarded Peters $9,867.19, just under the maximum $10,000 allowed, agreeing with Peters’ claim that while her car’s brochure said she would get 50 miles per gallon, her car was only clocking 28 to 29 miles per gallon.

“Honda could have made me go away,” Peters told KPBS Television’s “Evening Edition.” “I offered to trade the car for another used car and they never called me.”

Peters said a dying battery meant Honda had to reprogram her car, which dropped her gas mileage to 28 or 29 from 40.

“So they used the battery less and the gas more, which is like siphoning gas out of my tank,” she said.

Honda disputes her claims and is challenging the small claims court judgement.

"We regret that Ms. Peters is unhappy with the reported mileage for her particular driving experience," the company said in a statement. "However, it is clearly pointed out on the federally required window label that accompanied her car that mileage will vary depending upon a number of factors including options, driving conditions, driving habits and vehicle condition."

While Peters could have joined more than 500,000 Honda owners in a class action lawsuit against the company, she found the potential reward—$200 and a coupon toward your next Honda—inadequate.

So Peters went to small claims court and won. Now she is working to urge other Honda owners to do the same using her website, www.dontsettlewithhonda.org.

"When they were negotiating the settlement, it was just hypothetical, what these claims might be worth," she said. "Nobody really knew. But now we really know. So there are a number of people that have objected."

Others agreed with Peters that the class action lawsuit was not enough. Five states including California are considering objecting to the proposed class-action settlement, and today a San Diego County Superior Court judge gave them more time to make their decision.

Judge Timothy Taylor agreed to give the state attorneys general from California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington until Feb. 29 to object to the settlement. California Deputy Attorney General Albert Shelden said it is not clear if California will intervene.

The final hearing is scheduled for March 16.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Just_Frank'

Just_Frank | February 14, 2012 at 12:38 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

What an ordeal to just leave a comment.

I drive a 2006 Honda Insight. It is my first hybrid. When I first began driving it I drove it the same way I drove my non hybrid "regular" car. I was only getting mid 40s MPG. After a little research and changing the way I drive I am able to get the 60 MPG "claimed" by Honda. When driving a hybrid car, or any car, you can trade mileage for performance, or get better mileage by "accepting" lower performance.

I was unable to listen to the whole interview with H. Peters ESQ., but I suspect she drives her car the way she has always driven and that explains her lower than desired mileage. It takes only a few minor changes to make dramatic changes in MPG.

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Avatar for user 'dontsettlewithhonda'

dontsettlewithhonda | February 14, 2012 at 2:20 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Good point - driving it like a regular car does not get the advertised milege. That is why Honda's brochure should not have advertised “just enjoy driving the Civic Hybrid like you would a conventional gasoline-engine vehicle.” ;)

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Avatar for user 'Just_Frank'

Just_Frank | February 15, 2012 at 7:47 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

@DontSettleWithHonda
You're Right. I try to avoid advertising, and research purchases on my own. I will see "The Best", or “4 out of 5 recommend…”, or other phrases and think to myself "How can they get away with statements like that?" or "How can anyone believe that?”
I just hope people see the settlement against Honda as a penalty against false advertising and extravagant claims and not against hybrid technology.

Just_Frank.

And my complaint about leaving a comment stems from this being the first time I’ve ever left a comment anywhere. The steps necessary to register caught me during a “trying” day.
Frank.

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Avatar for user 'mac10'

mac10 | February 15, 2012 at 8:40 a.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

Just frank apparently didn't have time to read the article either. The woman stated that she WAS getting the claimed mileage until they reprogrammed the computer to rely less on the the batteries which in effect negated much of the mileage advantage of the hybrid system. They did this because the batteries were failing prematurely so they changed the computer program to allow the batteries to discharge below a certain level. The Civic Hybrid has only a 1.3 gas motor that by itself is not sufficient to power the vehicle requiring the driver to floor it to get it to go anywhere.This is exacerbated during stop and go driving as the battery is quickly exhausted. I have talked to several civic hybrid owners who are having the same problem.

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Avatar for user 'Just_Frank'

Just_Frank | February 15, 2012 at 12:01 p.m. ― 2 years, 7 months ago

@mac10

I did just read the article and saw what you mentioned.

Fortunatly my mileage didn't suffer when the software was updated a few months after I bought my car in 2006.

The Hondas use a compleatly different system than the Prius. The electric motor is only to assist the gasoline motor. The car can't drive with the electric motor alone. I too can find the batery state of charge will diminish in stop and go driving. I find, and tell people, my car is much better at "long hauls". I drove to upstate New York, and even driving faster than I am willing to put in writing, I was able to go more than 5800 miles using 100 gallons. And when I visit my sister in LA, I usually get about 70 MPG.

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Avatar for user 'amyA'

amyA | March 17, 2012 at 3:29 a.m. ― 2 years, 6 months ago

Hi everyone, just passing by. I was deciding to get a ride, one that's fuel efficient and worth the good interest rates for car loan. It's good to come across this page and learn of the common problems encountered with Hondas. Informative page!

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