A California judge sided with Honda in overturning a February 1 court decision over the fuel economy of the 2006 Honda Civic hybrid. In the earlier decision, owner Heather Peters was awarded $9867 in small claims court after arguing that Honda made false claims about the fuel economy of the Civic hybrid.
Peters filed in small claims court earlier this year when she was unhappy with a settlement offered by Honda. Peters complained that her 2006 Honda Civic hybrid returned only 29 mpg, despite Honda claiming it would manage 50 mpg. In a class-action settlement, Honda offered disgruntled Civic hybrid owners $100 cash and a $500 to $1000 rebate on the purchase of a new Honda or Acura. Peters didn't feel that was enough, and pursued more legal action.
At a small-claims hearing, Peters claimed in part that a software update and rapid deterioration of the battery had drastically reduced the fuel economy of her Honda Civic hybrid. She also helped guide other Civic hybrid owners to pursue legal action; Honda spokesman Chris Martin told Automotive.com there are at least 17 small-claims cases concerning the car around the nation. Peters ended up winning $9867 -- she filed for California's maximum of $10,000, and was awarded the damages on the basis of extra money spent on fuel for the car's reduced fuel economy.
In the most recent court decision, Torrance, California, judge Dudley Gray II sided with Honda and overturned the prior ruling -- which cannot be further appealed due to California law. As Automotive.com reports, much of the reasoning hedged on doubts about Peters' driving habits, with Honda's legal team accusing that she saw poor fuel economy because she was an aggressive driver. The defense pointed out that Peters had previously owned sports cars like a Mazda RX-8 and BMW Z4, and that service records for her Civic indicated excessive tire wear consistent with aggressive driving patterns. Despite Peters’ claims that her Civic hybrid accelerated so slowly as to be dangerous, she admitted she wasn't too scared to drive the car. Honda also noted that over 200,000 Civic hybrids have been sold in the U.S., and there have been no recorded complaints about poor acceleration.
Regarding the ruling, Honda said in a statement, "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, 17 similar small claims cases involving Civic Hybrid owners have been heard in courts across the country and Honda has now prevailed in 16, based on facts and the law."
For now, it seems like the mysterious case of Honda Civic hybrid fuel economy has come to a close.