Friday, February 03, 2012

Don't Settle with Honda, lawyer says

Here's her website.  She opted out of the settlement, sued Honda in small claims court, and won nearly the statutory maximum of $10,000.  I don't know what to think about this; I'm in receipt of the settlement notice.  It is true that we haven't gotten very near the advertised mileage, certainly not in city driving.  It's also true that it was immediately obvious that one has to drive a bit differently than Americans are trained to drive to maximize mileage, and I was disturbed by the Honda statements that you could just keep driving exactly as normal; I understand why Honda would need to explain that you didn't actually need to plug in this hybrid and would gas it up like any other car, given the newness of the technology at its introduction and the variety of hybrid/electric vehicles around, but that's not really "drive just as you would any other car!"  I'd say we currently get 35 mpg on an average tank (my husband doesn't really change his driving style, and spends a fair amount of time in stop and go traffic) and 37.5 mpg on a good one.  This is a decrease over time.  I am still undecided about whether to participate in the settlement.


Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't you opt-out? What is the $100 or $200 going to actually get you? A nice dinner or two? Meanwhile, something that advertised 51mpg is getting you 35mpg and you paid a massive premium to get that advertised mileage. Otherwise, you could have saved $7,000 and bought a regular civic.

I'd say opt-out and write the court on why you think it's unfair. The judge has until March to rule on the fairness of the settlement.

I think Honda needs to come back and offer $1000 as an honest settlement proposal. I think most people would take that and save honda from losing billions in small claims court. Judge may make them do just that!

Michael La Porte said...

Anonymous asks: "Why wouldn't you opt-out?"

Well, for starters:

1. You don't have the time to do what this woman did.

2. You don't think that Honda actually defrauded you (i.e., no actual harm / no causation).

It seems to me that this is at a very close intersection (pun intended) of marketing puffery and American insistence that things be literal when it suits them and figurative when it doesn't.

I don't know all the ins and outs of the Honda statements (so I could obviously be swayed otherwise) but as a fellow hybrid owner and driver, I can attest to the fact that the YMMV is NOT tied to the technology or mechanics of the car. Its tied to the foot and brain of the driver. Getting 25-26 mpg in the city for our Mariner hybrid is a no-brainer and its what one person in our household gets. Getting 32 - 25mpg in the city is also very doable and its what I get.

On the highway, if you drive between 55 (gasp, I know!!, right?!) I can easily get 38-42 mpg. I don't even know what the advertised estimated MPG is. I didn't buy for that reason alone - at least not for a specific number.

But most Americans like acceleration too much and like fast highway speeds to much to do the things necessary to get optimal gas mileage. As my father the math teacher frequently reminds me, wind resistance varies with the SQUARE of velocity. Its not linear. One more mile per hour increases wind resistance by X * SPEEDINCREASE^2 You speed up beyond 55mph and you start running into massive wind resistence. If you don't know what that feels like, take a bike ride into a 20 mph headwind in Chicago sometime!! Your car is doing some serious work to get through the air.

Back to the question and the comment above -- WE didn't buy our Mariner so that we could do a dollar for dollar comparison on what was cheaper or more cost justified in terms of fuel consumption. We bought it because we believed it was the right thing to do to reduce fuel consumption.

The above poster has put forward a rule of dollar cost savings. I guess if you bought on that basis, you might feel defrauded (but you might also ask if your driving habits are keeping you from 50 rather than 35).

I think that you ask yourself: what has Honda done wrong by ME. If its luring you (falsely) into buying a hybrid instead of the alternative, then opt out. If its the marketing involved in a "promise" of 50mpg and an actual of 35, which may or may not be due (or largely due) to personal driving habits, there's also an argument for opting out, but opting out and doing NOTHING.

Since we lawyers are sometimes accused of not giving advice but just tossing out ideas, here's what I would do: take the settlement. Personally, I felt defrauded by the US Government regarding my "tax break" for buying a hybrid, only to learn that my hybrid tax credit put me into the Alternative Minimum tax. I know that's not Ford's fault, but I would justify it to myself that I'm "owed" something.

From YOUR perspective, I'd say take the settlement. It doesn't seem like Honda did too much wrong here.

Michael La Porte said...

Apologies for numerous typos.

Its =/ It's
Between 32 and 35
Between 55 and 60
Too much

Stephen P. said...

I wrote to opt-out not because of mileage (even though my mileage dropped from ~45 to ~39 after the software "upgrade", but because Honda actually made my car's efficiency worse then said they couldn't revert to the original "pre-update condition". I was told the software update was going to make my car better but it only made it cost more to operate. Remember, gas isn't going to get any cheaper, so yeah I probably would have passed on this car for straight gas one had I known Honda was going to change the game after I was already on base. They ruined my property under the guise of doing good. Isn't that fraud?

Jim said...

Remember, in 2006, the EPA rated cars mpg based on crusie control on a track at 55mph! Who drives like that? But if you did, you would get the mileage it states on the window sticker. Another thing, hybrids use "low rolling resistance" tires...when you replace your tires, many go to the local tire store and buy regular cheaper will lose mpg with these tires. So I believe Honda did lil wrong in this. By law, Honda must post EPA MPG on the window sticker. I received 51mpg in my honda civic going down hwy 5 to L.A. from S.F. at 60mph with cruise I know its attainable. Other drivers weren't pleased with my speed and so most go faster and as you go faster than 60mph, the gas mileage deteriorates quickly.

Anonymous said...

Stephen P. No its not fraud, its called making your IMA battery last a lot longer thru a software update. Isn't that worth a few mpg less. Let me ask you honestly, do you drive 55mph, cause thats what they based the mpg figures on. Do you use and replace your tires with "low rolling resistance" tires. If you do both, then perhaps you would have a claim. I think its as much an issue with the EPA and their rules for what must be put on the window stickers. Sorry, love my Honda Civic Hybrid and it does give me the 50 mpg I expected when I bought it. But I don't expect that kind of mileage when I go 70-80 mph or take off quickly from a stop. You must drive a hybrid differently than you do non-hybrid cars.

RT said...

Thanks to all the commenters for making worthwhile points while behaving respectfully on a stranger's blog--you're restoring my faith in humanity. In my spouse's defense, the Civic doesn't have as great an advantage in his normal stop-and-go traffic as a Prius because of the initial acceleration required. No matter how differently you drive it, it's not going to get max mileage in those conditions, and I do think it was especially hard to understand what you were getting in the beginning--and it may also have been hard for Honda to convey what we were getting.

jim said...

You have a good point RT...but remember, comparing prius to civic is apples and oranges. Honda is a simple hybrid whereas the Prius is a complex hybrid, more electric motors etc. Prius will start acceleration from a stop on battery power only, Honda uses IMA (integrated motor assist) on take off from a dead stop. When I wrote Honda, they said they decided not to have the cars weight take off on battery power only from a dead stop due to the stress and possible overheating of the hybrid battery. Sounded logical to me at the time, and this was prior to lithium batteries (were Nickel metal hydride).