TORRANCE, Calif – A Honda customer is taking the road less traveled to sue the Japanese auto maker for allegedly making false mileage claims about her 2006 Civic Hybrid.
Heather Peters is set to appear in court Tuesday in Torrance, Calif., the home of American Honda Motor, to argue that her vehicle never delivered the 50 mpg touted by the auto maker in a sales brochure.
In an interview with the FOX Business Network, Peters said that her car never delivered "more than 41 or 42 mpg on its very best day," adding that the mileage normally came in around the high 30s.
She said she became really "ticked off" last year when Honda performed a software update to prevent vehicle batteries from deteriorating too quickly. The car's mileage suffered as a result of the battery fix, Peters said, dropping to the high 20s, which eventually forced her to take legal matters into her own hands.
Peters, a former corporate defense attorney, is urging other disgruntled Honda customers to opt out of a class action lawsuit over the mileage claims, and seek a larger payout in small claims court.
She launched a website "Don'tSettleWithHonda.org" with the intention of taking her legal fight viral.
Peters said claimants could be awarded up to $10,000 in small claims court, as opposed to the $200 in cash and a rebate of $500 to $1,000 toward a new Honda vehicle that will be awarded in the class action settlement.
The small payout pales in comparison to the estimated $8.5 million to be awarded to trial lawyers in the settlement, she says.
"Class actions are great for little cases, but not for cases like this where Honda's false advertising is costing already cash-strapped families more every day at the gas pump," Peters said.
"It's time for Honda to go one on one with its customers where they can't hide behind high-priced lawyers. I want people to know that small claims court is not so scary, it's a lot like Judge Judy," she added.
Honda would be wise to discourage a flood of claimants into small claims court, however.
Peters estimates that if other customers follow her lead, the automaker could be forced to pay $2 billion for its questionable fuel-efficiency claims.
Honda reportedly attempted unsuccessfully on four different occasions to postpone Peters' small claims case until the deadline passed for hybrid owners to opt out of the class action settlement.
Peters told FOX Business that she has received job offers as a result of her online battle against the auto giant, but insisted she is not seeking fame from the matter, adding that she only wants her car to work properly.
The former lawyer also said that Honda has not contacted her regarding the claims, suggesting that the company was "ignoring her."