False Advertising? Angry Hybrid Owner Suing Honda Saying Car Doesn’t Get 51 MPG

Heather Peters is taking Honda to small claims court for what she says are the fuel economy shortcomings of her Civic Hybrid. When she originally purchased the vehicle, she did so in the hopes that it would save her money at the gas pump. However, Peters claims that the car does not deliver the advertised 51 miles per gallon (mpg) highway and 46 mpg city fuel efficiency.

“Of course I didn’t expect to get exactly [50 mpg], but it never got even close to that,” said Peters in a FOX interview. “On its best day, it was getting 41-42 [mpg]; generally in the high 30’s.”

She claims things only got worse from there.

“They did a software update that was intended to save the battery so that they didn’t have to pay $3,000 to replace it and now I get 28 or 29 [mpg],” Peters said.

But why has Peters decided to opt out of the proposed class-action lawsuit settlement in favor of small claims court?

The New York Times explains:

A proposed settlement was rejected in March 2010…the settlement contained too little of value for the plaintiffs.

Under the terms of the earlier settlement offer, Civic Hybrid owners who were willing to trade in their car could receive a $1,000 coupon toward a new Honda; class members who wanted to keep their hybrid were eligible for a $500 coupon. The coupons could not be used toward the purchase of another Civic Hybrid – new or used. (Honda also offered to provide a free DVD of tips for achieving better fuel economy.) The revised settlement adds $100 cash payments.

Peters, who used to be a former corporate defense lawyer, says that the only people who would be rewarded with the original settlement would be the lawyers who would make millions in fees under the agreement. The actual hybrid owners, the ones who paid thousands over sticker price for the “hybrid premium,” would walk away with nothing but coupons and an instructional DVD.

“You’re taking the matter to small claims court. What do hope to accomplish there?” asked the FOX news host.

“Well, at first I just wanted some common courtesy. I still am absolutely stunned that Honda has never called me to discuss this,” said Peters to a surprised FOX host.

But what’s her ultimate goal?

“In small claims court, I can sue for up to $10,000 — it’s very easy.”