May 9, 2012

Honda loses PR war over fighting Civic Hybrid owner & false advertising

I don’t know about you, but Heather Peters fight with Honda over her Civic Hybrid has really soured me on Honda as a company.  Peters discovered that her Honda Civic Hybrid was not getting the mileage Honda advertised after a software update recall from Honda.  This is no small difference either, we’re talking about a difference of about 20 MPG here.  This makes the extra $6,000-$7,000 Honda buyers pay for a Hybrid Civic, as compared to a regular Civic, in order to get Hybrid mileage they advertise and spend less on gas, virtually worthless — there is no point in paying extra for a Hybrid.

I know I’ll never in my lifetime trust Honda now in regards to their Hybrid cars.  And really this has soured me overall on Honda as a company.  In full disclosure, I know two very happy Honda Fit owners (neither are hybrids though).  I personally am a very happy Toyota Corolla owner, since I got rid of my Nissan Sentra SE-R, my four-year nightmare of a car, and so far Toyota as a company has been great, and I feel very secure that I made a sound investment in my Corolla.

Through my ordeal with Nissan, I learned how horrible some of these car manufacturers are – Nissan North America, Inc.  is by far the worse corporation I’ve ever dealt with in my life because of all the lies they tell, because I found evidence (Technical Service Bulletins) that the issue with my car was a known issue, and even after I presented them with the TSB’s, Nissan continued to stonewall me and even hired a lawyer who offered me nothing worthy and was not interested in really fixing the situation (it was finally a General Manager at Power Nissan of South Bay, a dealership which is a separate business from the manufacturer, who finally bought back my Sentra).

Honda seems to be on the level of Nissan though with the way they fought Heather Peters case and with the lies Honda continued to tell.  Even after a court found in her favor, instead of just owning up to the false advertisement, Honda decided to appeal and get their big corporate attorneys to beat Peters on some complex federal regulations.

Kudos to you Honda for beating Peters on the appeal and saving that whopping $9,867.19.  Now me and many others will never buy a Honda ever in our lifetime because we can no longer trust Honda as a company and manufacturer of quality cars. You surely won the battle against Peters, but you lost the PR war and many future sales.  All this over $9,867.19 – now I’m no business major but that doesn’t seem like smart math to me.

Here is Heather Peters press release today:

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Honda Wins Small Claims Battle,

Loses Public Relations War

United States, California, Los Angeles, May 8, 2012 – Last February a small-claims court in California ordered Honda to pay Civic Hybrid owner Heather Peters $9,867.19 for falsely advertising 50 MPG city and highway. Instead of owning up to its mistake, Honda hired a national law firm with more than 800 lawyers to appeal her win. Lawyers are not allowed in small claims court in California, but they are allowed on appeal where losses are re-tried in their entirety.

After three days of testimony on Honda’s appeal, Honda’s dream team of lawyers, led by Roy Brisbois, founding partner of Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard and Smith LLP, convinced Superior Court Judge Dudley W. Gray, II to overturn Peters’ victory. Honda cited reams of complex federal regulations that it claimed required advertising of fuel economy numbers that the EPA itself had determined were inflated. Peters’ reaction to the ruling was:

“It’s a sad day when regulations designed to protect consumers are used against them. I’m certain that the EPA and FTC never intended to shield Honda from liability for advertising claims that a court of law determined to be false.”

A 178-page EPA report of 2006 found that hybrids in general have a greater sensitivity to operating conditions than conventional vehicles. The report states that hybrids “can either take full advantage of the hybrid technology or essentially nullify it” and found that the EPA testing methods overstated city fuel economy of the Honda Civic Hybrid by 85% when compared to the onroad testing of Consumer Reports.  Click here to read full report –

Nevertheless, Judge Gray found that Honda complied with EPA and FTC regulations. Peters does not fault Judge Gray for applying a poorly-crafted consumer regulatory scheme beyond his control, but she is urging the FTC and EPA to revisit the regulations to better protect consumers.

Regardless of Honda’s victory in this small claims appeal, it has suffered an enormous public relations loss. The Peters case was widely publicized in over 1,000 news stories globally which have given a great deal of negative publicity to the automotive giant. Peters says:

“Of course I’m disappointed, 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 court decision is now final as California’s small claims court rules do not allow for further appeals.  Click here to read the Court’s ruling – Honda Final Decision

A recent settlement of class action litigation regarding the same claims raised by Peters may help other Civic Hybrid owners collect a nominal cash award and coupons towards future Honda or Acura purchases.  Peters urges anyone who owned or leased a 2003-2009 Civic Hybrid to read about their rights at  1,705 people who opted out of the class action settlement may possibly be able to opt back in.  The Settlement Administrator is available to answer questions about the terms of the settlement and about the possibility of opting back in.  Call 877-465-4797 and press “9” to skip the recordings and speak to a human.