This month is full of controversy and it continues with reports of a possible settlement for Honda and a group of consumers in California. Honda has been selling the Honda Civic Hybrid since 2003 with a sticker EPA mileage estimate of 49/51 city/hwy mpg. This continued until the 2008 when the EPA revised its calculation of fuel efficiency, which reduced the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid efficiency numbers to 40/45 city/hwy mpg. Using either set of numbers, consumers in California called B.S. They claim that their cars only achieve 31 mpg—period. Is this Honda’s fault? Did they EPA numbers mislead consumers?

John Voelcker (I think I may dub him Mr. Green) reported on this yesterday over at our partner site,, and gives the advance math calculations for what the difference in mileage would have generally cost these particular consumers. The other thing he points out is that the mileage calculations from the EPA are estimates and they do say mileage will vary. Which is why the lawsuit was filed against Honda and not the EPA. The lawsuit claims that Honda didn’t do enough to inform consumers about the possible variation in mileage. The real question should be, did Honda know that these cars would return less than the EPA numbers on average and is this a common complaint across the U.S. or just in California?

Instrument Cluster - 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid CVT

Instrument Cluster - 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid CVT

The way I see it, car companies do extensive testing of their automotive technology and in the case of hybrids there is an almost obsessive need to know the gas mileage return. So in my opinion, what we should be asking is did Honda knowingly sell their cars to consumers with the knowledge that the average gas mileage return would be roughly 37 percent less than the city sticker EPA estimate. We should also ask if this pattern is only happening in California or if it happened across the board with the 2003-2008 Honda models. It is one thing to say mileage may vary from the EPA estimates; it is another to know the EPA’s calculations weren’t realistic and not say anything.

Bottom line—Voelcker is right, the only people who get anything out of this is the lawyers, especially when you consider the proposed settlement is for $1000 if you sell the car and buy another new Honda or $500 if you keep it and buy another new Honda. Oh and by the way, you can’t use that settlement money on the Honda Insight or Civic Hybrid or the Fit. How many people do you think will really take that offer?


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