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'Civic' duty: Honda wins appeal of hybrid mileage ruling

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A car ruling has been overturned in Los Angeles with Honda winning its appeal of a small-claims hybrid judgment, it was announced Wednesday.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dudley W. Gray overturned the judgment against American Honda Motor Co. won by Heather Peters in February, finding that most Civic hybrid owners achieve fuel economy close to federal EPA estimates.

Peters opted out of a class action settlement and sued the automaker. The MPG-maven was to be awarded $9,867 in the initial judgement.

According to the Associated Press, Peters sued over misrepresentation of gas mileage. However, when Peters spoke to KPCC's Rob Strauss in February, she explained it was only part of the reason for the lawsuit. Honda, she claimed, made a software fix to the car that reduced the mileage per gallon without letting customers know it would do that.

Said Peters:

There are two parts to the situation. The first part, they advertised 50 miles a gallon. It never got close to that  -- it was 41, 42 on its best day. Usually 37, 38.  But I wasn’t going to sue over that. Average mileage may vary, and 20 percent is a big difference but I’m not going to go to court over that.

What really was the problem was in 2010, Honda realized they had a huge problem on their hand because they were getting lots of warranty claims to replace these hybrid batteries prematurely. And that cost them $3000 a battery to replace. 

So what they did was they came up with this clever idea for them to save their warranty claim They reprogrammed the software in everybody’s car.

They sent us all a letter that said 'come into this new software, it’s great . It will extend your battery.' So we all came in because you want to extend your battery. 

They didn’t tell you that what they were doing was reprogramming the car to use the battery less. So now it uses a lot more gas. And I have hundreds of photos of my dashboard showing 29.1 miles per gallon. 29 versus 50 is a lot bigger deal.   


This story has been updated.

Lisa Brenner can be reached via Twitter @lisa_brenner