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Judge Reverses Honda Judgment Over Hybrid Fuel Economy

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Wednesday overturned a small claims judgment against Honda by a car owner who said the automaker misrepresented the gas mileage on her Civic hybrid.

Superior Court Judge Dudley W. Gray’s ruling released Wednesday found that most owners of that type of car achieve fuel economy close to federal EPA estimates.

A court commissioner had previously ruled in favor of Civic owner Heather Peters, awarding her $9,867.

Peters said despite the ruling, Honda still suffered a significant public relations loss from the case.

“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,” Peters said in a statement. “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!”

Peters opted out of a class-action settlement giving some 200,000 owners between $100 and $200 each, plus a rebate if they buy a new Honda, electing instead to sue the automaker on her own.

The court decision (PDF) served to effectively end Peters’ legal challenge against Honda, as California’s small claims court rules do not allow for further appeals.

Honda released this statement in response to Wednesday’s ruling:

“Honda is pleased with the Court’s decision which affirms that Honda was truthful in its advertising of the fuel economy potential of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. We are thankful for the support we received from the many satisfied Civic Hybrid owners who expressed their support throughout the legal process.

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, seventeen similar small claims cases involving Civic Hybrid owners have been heard in courts across the country and Honda has now prevailed in sixteen, based on facts and the law.

Honda welcomes any customer who has questions about fuel economy to contact the company directly through our dealer network or our Automobile Customer Service office.”

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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