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by Tim Beissmann

A US woman has been awarded more than $9000 by a Californian judge after she successfully disputed the claimed fuel economy of her Honda Civic Hybrid.

Heather Peters, a former lawyer from southern California, filled a small-claims action against Honda late last year on the basis that she believed the manufacturer had misled her about the potential fuel economy of the 2006 Civic Hybrid.

When Peters purchased the compact hybrid, its combined cycle fuel consumption was rated at 50mpg (4.7 litres per 100km). When the 2008 model year Civic Hybrid was released in the US, its fuel consumption rating was revised to 42mpg (5.6L/100km), and the official rating for Peters’ 2006 Civic Hybrid was adjusted retrospectively.

Peters told the New York Times she was lucky to get average economy of 28mpg (8.4L/100km) from her Civic Hybrid.

“The advertising brochure said, ‘Drive it like you would a normal Civic.’ Now they say it takes special driving skills to achieve that mileage. I would have never bought it in the first place if they would have told me that,” Peters said.

Los Angeles superior court commissioner Douglas Carnahan awarded Peters US$9867 ($9207) – just shy of the maximum US$10,000 ($9331) potential payout in the state’s small-claims court – ruling that Honda knew the 2006 Civic Hybrid could not match the economy claims.

“At a bare minimum Honda was aware … that by the time Peters bought the car there were problems with its living up to its advertised mileage,” Carnahan’s judgement read.

Honda disagrees with the judgement and plans to appeal the decision.

Peters’ decision to take on Honda in the small-claims court earned her significantly more than if she joined the class-action lawsuit. Under the terms of an earlier settlement offer, Civic Hybrid owners who traded in their cars would receive a US$1000 ($934) credit, or US$1500 ($1400) if they traded up for a non-hybrid Honda or Acura vehicle. Those who wanted to keep their cars could accept a US$500 ($467) credit that could not to be used on another Civic Hybrid.

Peters said if all 200,000 eligible Honda Civic Hybrid owners in the US sued the manufacturer in the small-claims court and won, it could cost Honda US$2 billion ($1.87 billion).

The Honda Civic Hybrid sold in the US is a different vehicle to the one sold in Australia under the same name.




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