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Honda Loses Civic Hybrid Lawsuit

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Filed under Automotive, Honda, News

The 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. Image: American Honda Motor Co.

If you side with plaintiff and 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid owner Heather Peters, the automaker misled buyers in its claims that the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid could return up to 50 mpg fuel economy. If you side with Honda, the automaker claims that actual fuel economy delivered (by any car) is largely determined by driving style and maintenance performed.

While enough 2006 – 2008 Honda fell short of projected mileage to file a class action lawsuit against Honda, Peters knew better than to jump on that particular bandwagon. Under the proposed class-action settlement, Civic Hybrid owners would receive just $100 and a coupon valid for $1,000 off the purchase of a new Honda automobile. The trial lawyers involved, on the other hand, would get some $8.5 million.

Instead, Peters took the novel approach of taking Honda to small claims court, seeking the maximum of $10,000 in damage for her time and trouble. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the court sided with Peters, a former attorney, awarding her $9,867 in damages.

Honda will appeal the ruling, so the case is likely far from over. Peters claims that some 500 other Civic Hybrid owners have contacted her in regards to pursuing a small claims case, and given the population of Civic Hybrids on the road, such a groundswell could get very expensive for Honda.

Which, in turn, means that Honda products could get more expensive for everyone else. There is, after all, no such thing as a free lunch.

If you read any new car window sticker, called a “Monroney” in the business, fuel economy numbers are clearly labeled with a disclaimer and an “expected range.” A vehicle rated at 28 mpg highway may have an expected range of 23 to 33 mpg on the highway, a variance of nearly 20 percent. Window stickers also include the statement, “Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.”

In other words, no one is guaranteeing that a car will hit the numbers advertised. While we don’t know if Peters was informed of this, or if her car even came with a window sticker, every single published mileage claim we’ve ever seen contained the same disclaimer, albeit in fine print.

Peters’ victory may be a win for her, and potentially for other Honda Civic Hybrid owners, but it’s also a potential loss for future Honda buyers. It’s also a loss for common sense and personal responsibility, both of which are in short supply these days.


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