Heather Peters will have to cancel any plans she had for the nearly $10,000 she won against Honda — a California Superior Court judge has overturned her small-claims court victory in her allegations that Civic Hybrid’s gas mileage ratings were misleading.
She claimed Honda advertised window-sticker mileage ratings that it knew the car was not able to achieve.
The Tuesday decision released today ruled in favor of Honda’s appeal of the $9,867.19 award to Peters. She had gone the unusual small-claims route (limited to $10,000 in the state) after deciding to opt out of a larger class-action settlement by about 200,000 Civic Hybrid owners that granted them each $100 to $200 and an up to $1,500 discount on a new Honda.
She objected to the fees the lawyers negotiating the settlement were to get and started a web site urging owners not to accept the settlement.
In an e-mail to Drive On, Peters wrote that even though Honda prevailed in court, the automaker “has suffered an enormous public relations loss” from what she says are more than 1,000 news stories published worldwide.
“Of course I’m disappointed,” she wrote, “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 the go the extra mile fighting customers in court. I guess the moral of the story is buyer beware — especially of Honda!”
The ruling applies only to Peters’ judgment, but could affect the prospects for some 1,700 other hybrid owners that also jumped ship on the settlement after Peters’ initial victory, according to an Associated Press report..
The judge ruled that federal rules set window-sticker gas mileage ratings and cover automaker mpg claims in ads. The ruling also noted that “your mileage may vary,” i.e. that real world mileage is affected by road conditions, weather, driving habits and other factors out of Honda’s control and that ad claims are not a guarantee of that mileage. It also noted that most Civic Hybrid owners get mileage in the ballpark of the ratings.
Honda released this statement on the ruling:
Honda is pleased with the Court’s decision which affirms that Honda was truthful in its advertising of the fuel economy potential of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. We are thankful for the support we received from the many satisfied Civic Hybrid owners who expressed their support throughout the legal process.
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. However, it is important to note that, since January of this year, seventeen similar small claims cases involving Civic Hybrid owners have been heard in courts across the country and Honda has now prevailed in sixteen, based on facts and the law.
Honda welcomes any customer who has questions about fuel economy to contact the company directly through our dealer network or our Automobile Customer Service office.