Archive for January, 2012


The 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit kicked off Monday with a slew of new, exciting products.

GM, Ford and Chrysler came on strong with some exciting new designs that are sure to be a hit in the market. Nissan and Porsche returned to the show after being absent during some of the dark years of the recession.  The all-new Mercedes-Benz SL made its world debut, VW showed off some cool green concepts and the all-new, all-important BMW 3-Series made its North  American debut.

I sifted through the deluge of information from Day 1 and below are the ones I found most interesting and/or important.

Acura:

Honda’s mild-luxury division is back in the chair for another round of hair and makeup.  The current TSX, a slightly restyled Euro Accord, is gone in favor of an all-new ILX sedan based on the new generation Honda Civic.  Acura thinks that the ILX will nail Gen Y who demand something better (and better-looking) than a Civic.  Priced under $30,000, the ILX will be available with three powertrains, just like the Civic:  A 2.0L 4-cylinder mated to an automatic (hopefully 6-speed); the hybrid system out of the Civic Hybrid – a 1.5L gas engine with Integrated Motor Assist, and the 2.4L 4-cylinder Civic Si engine with a 6-speed manual transmission. If you think it looks like the outgoing TSX, join the club.

2013 Acura ILX. I wish Acura would ditch the beak.

The 2013 Acura ILX looks a bit better from the rear, but not by much.

Not satisfied with one new product, Acura showed the all-new RDX, based on the new Honda CR-V. This time around, thankfully, Honda ditched the laggy turbo four, 5-speed automatic and expensive SH-AWD in favor of Honda’s 3.5L 273 hp V6, a six-speed automatic and the simpler and lighter AWD system found in the CR-V.  The Acura beak is still there, but to my eye, this “concept” (which is production ready) looks a bit dull and sad. I don’t see anything that will make it stand out in the crowd of smaller CUVs.

2013 Acura RDX - Concept - although we understand it's pretty close to the production version.

The interior of the 2013 Acura is handsome; however, it's not too much different from the outgoing TSX - which has a similar interior.

The real news is the long-awaited return of the Acura NSX super car.  This time around, Acura is aiming high. As high as the upcoming Porsche 918 Hybrid and the Audi R8.  The  NSX is to be designed in the US and built in Honda’s Ohio plant.  The details released are the stuff of boy-racer dreams.   It will have Honda’s first Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.   A next-generation 3.5L V6 engine will add direct injection and be good for at least 308 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. It will be mated to a dual-clutch automatic with a built-in electric motor driving the rear wheels.  In addition, a pair of electric motors at the front axle will drive the front wheels and also be capable of propelling the NSX in electric-only mode.  Also new is another wordy system: Bilateral Torque Adjustable Control – a.k.a. torque vectoring.   The entire system is melded together with silicon chips and highly-sophisticated software to produce all-wheel drive.   It should be amazing. Honda says is should go into production in 3-4 years.

Acura NSX Concept. I hope the eagle beak gets toned down in any production version.

Acura NSX Concept

Cadillac:

GM’s luxury division is finally dead serious about taking on the Audi A4, BMW 3-series and Mercedes C-class.  No more rebadged Chevrolets (Cimmaron)  and no Opel reskins (Catera).  The Cadillac ATS rides on an all-new, bespoke rear-drive platform and offers the choice of three engines as well as all-wheel drive:

  • Base engine is a 2.5L inline four with 200 hp and 188 lb-ft torque. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic and it’s only available in RWD.
  • Optional 2.0L turbo four making 270 hp and 260 lb-ft torque.  Choices of a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. AWD is optional, but only with the automatic transmission.
  • Optional 3.6L V6 with 318 hp (take that BMW 335i) and 276 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is the 6-speed automatic and AWD is available.

Cadillac is using a sophisticated 5-link independent rear suspension with struts up front – this matches what the Germans have had for years. Cadillac claims a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution to match BMW’s long-held mantra. It’s also relatively svelte at around 3,400 lbs, which should help performance and fuel economy.  Electric power steering is sourced from ZF in Germany.  It will offer a vast array of electronic gadgets and nannies, including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, heads-up display, and adaptive headlights.  Cadillac’s new CUE (Cadillac User Experience) is optional with an 8-inch display.  Prices haven’t yet been announced; however, you can bet it will closely match the new BMW 3-series, so maybe $32,000-$34,000 base. It should go on sale this summer.

2013 Cadillac ATS

2013 Cadillac ATS

The Cadillac ATS has a handsome, balanced interior. The leather looks nice and Cadillac swears the wood is real.

Chevrolet:

The Heartbeat of America had some interesting concept cars and one hot hatch.

The 2013 Chevy Sonic RS is more of a styling exercise than tuner car.  The RS starts with the 5-door Sonic with the optional 1.4L turbo four making 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque – so there is no engine upgrade or tweak.  It comes with a 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission. The exterior gets some new fascia, unique grille, rocker panels, a revised bumper and a spoiler. Inside, Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system will be standard with a 7 inch touch screen and Bluetooth. The Sonic RS does get a stiffer suspension and rear disc brakes, so it should handle and stop a bit better than the standard Sonic.  Pricing hasn’t been announced yet.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS

Chevrolet also debuted two concept cars in an attempt to attract more Gen Y buyers (a burgeoning demographic).

First up is the Code 130R. It’s a rear-drive (yah!) four-seat coupe that has some of the looks and about the size of the BMW 1-series coupe.  Car & Driver magazine reports that it sits on the same platform as the ATS, but this isn’t confirmed by GM.  Power comes from Chevy’s 1.4L turbo four, bumped to 150 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. It is also fitted with GM’s mild-hybrid system called eAssist, currently in the Buick LaCrosse. It comes with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission.  Frankly, I think it looks cartoonish – like it comes from the latest Cars animated film.  Chevy calls it a “heritage” look.  The rear looks like a squeezed Camaro.

Chevrolet Code 130R Coupe Concept

Chevrolet Code 130R Coupe

Next is Chevy’s Tru 140S Concept hatchback. It’s about the size of a Chevy Cruze and rides on the same platform. Like the Code 130R, it has a 1.4L turbo four making 150 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. However, instead of the eAssist, it gets a start/stop system to save gas.  Transmission choices are also the same as the Code 130R – six speeds, automatic or manual. Chevy says it seats four people (albeit very tight).  While I’m not in Detroit and didn’t see it in person, the matte white paint is supposed to be sick.

Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept Hatchback. I love the headlights.

Chevrolet Tru 140S Concept Hatchback

Dodge:

I can’t resist the obvious metaphor: The 2013 Dodge Dart is right on target.  Starting at $15,995, this stellar new 4-door sedan (and only a sedan) based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, is a star among a sea of subcompact anonymity.  While it’s instantly recognizable as a Dodge by the cross-hair grille and mini-Charger-like taillights, you can see the Italian influences in the interior.

2013 Dodge Dart

2013 Dodge Dart - it definitely has the Charger's rear end.

Some dizzy designers at Dodge decided that the Dart should be easily customizable.  There are no less than twelve exterior colors and fourteen interior and trim colors.  The model levels will sound familiar to Dodge buyers:  SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and coming a bit later, R/T.

The Dart's cockpit looks inviting. The large 8 inch touch-screen is also used in other Dodge products.

The Dart's seats look much nicer than a standard subcompact car. That's the Italian speaking.

There are three different engines and three transmissions:

  • The base engine is a “Tigershark” 2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine  making a respectable 160 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. It can be had with either a six-speed manual or automatic.
  • Optional on the SE, SXT, Rallye and Limited is a 1.4L 4-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled engine similar to the unit found in the Fiat 500 Abarth.  It makes 160 hp and a whopping 184 lb-ft of torque, which makes all the difference given the engine has the same ponies as the Tigershark 2.0. It can be mated to Fiat’s all-new 6-speed dual clutch automatic as well as the regular 6-speed manual and automatic.
  • A few months after launch, an all-aluminum 2.4L  Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with a tantalizing 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque will be introduced. It’s available only on the R/T trim level. You get your choice of the 6-speed manual or automatic – no dual clutch option.

Dodge hasn’t released full pricing levels or fuel economy ratings. However, it’s likely that at least one of the powertrains will hit the seemingly-magical 40 mpg highway mark.

Ford:

In keeping with Ford’s “One Ford” mantra, the 2013 Ford Fusion is the Mondeo in the rest of the world. Like the Focus from last year, the same great car available only outside the US is now the same worldwide. Only the names are different.  The styling is forward and dynamic. It’s the new face of Ford and it bears more than a passing resemblance to the sensational Ford Evo concept shown in Frankfurt last year.

The Ford Evo concept car from the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

The Fusion is already a best-seller for Ford, with 248,067 units in 2011. By comparison, Honda sold 235,625 Accords, Toyota sold 308,510 Camrys and Hyundai sold 225,961 Sonatas.  In short, this mid-size sedan is the heart of the passenger car market in the US.

2013 Ford Fusion

2013 Ford Fusion

The new Fusion will be sold in three familiar trim levels: S, SEL and Titanium.  There are five (!) engine configurations, and none of them have more than four cylinders:

  • Base powertrain is a naturally-aspirated 2.5L  inline 4 with 170 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy figures were not released by Ford.
  • Option 1: An EcoBoost 1.6L direct-inject turbo-charged engine with 179 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. It’s available with either a 6-speed manual or automatic.  Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 37 mpg  highway.
  • Option 2: An EcoBoost 2.0L direct-inject turbo-charged engine with 237 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is Ford’s dual clutch 6-speed automatic.  Fuel economy: Ford says it will get 25% better fuel economy than the outgoing V6.
  • Hybrid powertrain: 2.0L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine and a permanent-magnet AC synchronous motor. The pair is good for 185 hp and 130 lb-ft torque. The only transmission is an eCVT.  Lithium-ion batteries replace the old nickle-metal hydride batteries. Fuel economy: 47 mpg city, 44 mpg highway. (Take that, Camry and Sonata hybrid!)
  • Plug-in Hybrid powertrain: 1.6L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder replaces the 2.0 unit in the non-plug-in hybrid. The combined electric motor and gas engine is good for 185 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque and it has the same eCVT transmission. However, with benefit of the plug-in EV range, Ford says the Fusion Energi will get 100 mpg-e (equivalent).

Ford is offering a slew of electronic nannies to help distinguish the Fusion from the competition. It will offer adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping system (to help the drowsy driver), blind-spot warning, active parking assist (it will parallel park the car for you) and Ford’s controversial MyFord Touch infotainment system with voice recognition and customizable screens.

2013 Ford Fusion interior. You can see that it's similar to the Focus, but larger and better equipped.

It’s a slick package that is sure to attract the attention of the millions of car buyers looking for a mid-size family sedan. The two hybrids will also be a hit with greenies and hypermilers.

Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes chose Detroit for the world debut of its sensational new SL. The styling is controversial and I’ve read lots of complaints about it, but the more I look at the pictures, the better I like it. And I think color has much to do with opinions – you know, like it in black, hate it in silver.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550

For those not steeped in Mercedes’ Byzantine nomenclature, SL = sport leicht, or sport and lightweight.  The SL lineage goes back to the ground-breaking 300SL Gullwing racer of the 1950s.  For much of the past two decades, the concept of “lightweight” has been more of a formality than a reality as the SL easily weight two tons.  For 2013, the all-new SL has an all-aluminum body and high-strength, lighter-weight steel in the frame.  Mercedes claims a 275 pound weight loss – as much as one healthy Texan.

2013_Mercedes-Benz SL550

Power comes from Mercedes’ new 4.7L twin-turbo direct-inject V8 also found in the larger CL coupe. It’s good for 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a revised Mercedes 7-speed automatic with a start/stop function to improve fuel economy (like anyone buying an SL really cares).  The 550SL should sprint to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds – about the same as the outgoing SL63 AMG.

Mercedes thinks there is lots of Magic in the new SL. Like the refreshed SLK from 2011, you can opt for the Magic Sky Control folding glass roof.  It’s like a gigantic skylight; however if you’re not in the mood for too much sun, you can press a button and the electrochromatic glass can be “dimmed” from opaque all the way to black. Neat trick and expensive.

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 with the Magic Sky Control electrochromatic glass roof.

The other Magic option is the Magic Vision Control.  MVC is really a high-tech windshield wiper system. The heated wipers can de-ice your windshield and when you need the washers, the nozzles are incorporated into the wiper arms.

The interior of the 2013 Mercedes SL550 looks like a comforable place for a long trip. I love the red leather.

Of course it has all of Mercedes’ electronic nannies and safety systems. Also the latest version of the company’s COMAND infotainment system complete with downloadable apps.  It goes on sale this spring (just in time for summer convertible weather) and although prices haven’t been announced, just figure it starts around $100,000.

Mercedes didn’t want to leave the green crowd out in the cold, so it introduced the E400 Hybrid.  The hybrid system in the 2013 E400 is an evolution of that found in the S400 Hybrid.  The E-class gets a 302 hp 3.5L direct-inject V6 coupled with a 27 hp electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the 7-speed automatic transmission.  The electric motor musters 118 lb-ft of torque on its own so the E400 can go up to 22 mpg or a whole half a mile on electric power alone.  Also, like the S400, the lithium-ion battery is placed in the engine bay so no trunk space is lost.  I’m not impressed with the fuel economy numbers of 24 city, 31 highway.  The 2012 E350 BlueTec diesel, on-sale now, gets 21 city, 32 highway — why pay the hybrid premium for the E400?

2013 Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid

Detail of the engine bay for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid

As if to rub salt in a wound, Mercedes also showed the 2013 E300 BlueTec Hybrid Concept. It will get substantially better fuel economy, but as usual, it’s not for the US market. WTF Mercedes?

Nissan

In the face of steadily-climbing fuel prices, Nissan served up a larger, non-truck-based 2013 Pathfinder SUV concept.  It should be no surprise that Nissan would get its own version of the new Infiniti JX35, a 7 passenger unibody SUV introduced last year. The Pathfinder concept shares the same chassis and probably the same drivetrain, although Nissan was short on details.  The Infiniti JX35 uses Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5L V6 making 265 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque.  The Pathfinder numbers would likely be a bit less.  Also, like the JX, the engine will be coupled with Nissan’s despised CVT (continuously variable transmission).  I know so many people who wish Nissan would ditch the use of the whiny CVT in almost all its cars; but Nissan is sticking with it.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Concept

Nissan Pathfinder Concept Interior.

The old Pathfinder is an 0ld school body-on-frame, truck-based SUV.  The Pathfinder Concept grows in practically all dimensions, but Nissan probably needs a big SUV that will hold a large family and not look like a tank (yeah, I’m talking about the Armada).  The concept is handsome, if not exciting. I like it better than the Infiniti JX.

Porsche:

I know you might be tired of Porsche grabbing all the headlines and magazine covers for its all-new 911 that goes on sale this February.  The accolades keep rolling in and I can’t wait to drive it.  The big “news” in Detroit is the world debut of the cabriolet versions of the 911 Carrera and 911 Carrera S.  Of course, the top is lighter and quieter and goes down in 13 seconds.  Here are a couple pictures to drool over.

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet in Guards Red

The new Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet's top in action

The interior of the new 911 Cabriolet is about as good as it gets. It's sublime.


Volkswagen:

VW still wants to achieve world domination by 2018, knocking out both GM and Toyota for total worldwide sales. A big part of that strategy is doubling sales in the US.  The new Jetta has been a hit, with sales up 44% for 2011 and it looks like VW will have the same success with the US/China-only Passat.

VW showed off two new “green” cars in Detroit.  The production-ready 2013 Jetta Hybrid is VW’s 2nd hybrid in the US market following the expensive Touareg Hybrid.  The gas-electric Jetta is powered by a new 1.4L turbocharged, direct-injected gas engine and it’s able to drive a whopping (not) 1.3 miles in EV mode.  VW is short on details like fuel economy ratings and price, but it’s expected to go on sale this November.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

The second VW concept – and this time it’s really just testing the public’s temperature – is the e-Bugster, a highly-stylized Beetle with a chopped roof and lowered suspension. It’s powered by what VW calls Blue-e-Motion electric drive using a 85 kWh 114 hp electric motor and a single speed transmission.  It uses a compact lithium-ion battery pack behind the front seats.  The drivetrain is real and VW is planning to use it in an electric Golf to be sold in Europe and maybe later in the US.  If we do get a “Bugster” (1) it won’t look nearly this cool and (2) VW has to change the name – it’s just a tad too easy to replace the “s” with another “g.”

Volkswagen Blue-e-Motion Bugster concept

Great looks for this VW concept Bugster


Update: January 10, 2012: The Court has ordered both parties back to Small Claims Court for more questions from the judge on January 25, 2012  Here’s the court order:

The court has reviewed the evidence currently before it, including some late-filed papers by the
plaintiff responding to the defendants previous motions.

Before making its decision final the court is concerned about one issue that, in the court‘s
opinion, was not adequately discussed at the hearing on January 3, 2012. This is the possible
effect on the plaintiff’s various theories of relief oft he statutes oflimitations that would be
a
pplicable to her theories.

So that the parties are given an opportunity to comment on this question, among any others they
wish, the matter is removed from submission and reset for further hearing on January 25, 2012,
i
n Department 8 at 1 :30.

Of particular interest to the court is whether, considering the date of purchase of the vehicle, the
pla
intiff is within operative statutes of limitation relating to claims of relief based on Civil Code
1770 et seq., Business & Professions Code 17200 et seq., Business & Professions Code 17500 et
seq .. and common law theories of intentional and negligent misrepresentation. Of further
interest i
s the effect of Code of Civil Procedure 338( d), the discovery rule.

The court is also interested in the parties‘ views of the effect of the presuit notice requirement of
C
ivil Code 1782.

Note that while the parties may be assisted by counsel in asserting their positions, counsel cannot
appe
ar in court nor sign presentations to the court. To that extent, the plaintiffs January 4
objection to the latest document signed by Mr. Peim is sustained, such that detailed consideration
o
f it is prevented. CCP 116.530.

Clerk to give notice.

Update: January 6, 2012: No ruling yet, but one is expected soon. See the video below of Ms. Peters being interviewed after her appearance in Small Claims Court:

Original post from January 2, 2011:

On January 1, 2012, the compensatory limit in Small Claims Court in California was increased from $5,000 to $10,000.  On January 3, 2012, Heather Peters, an owner of a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid, will face down a non-attorney representative of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. in a closely-watched case of David vs. Goliath.  She is suing for the new maximum of $10,000.

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

Ms. Peters and tens of thousands of other owners of model year 2003-2009 Honda Civic Hybrids are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it any longer. For a few years now, five class action lawsuits against Honda have been winding their way through the courts.  The proposed settlement consolidates the cases down to two cases with subclasses:

In the first case, John True, et al. v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., plaintiffs allege that the fuel economy estimates Honda advertised for the Honda Civic Hybrid could not be achieved under normal driving conditions. Honda has not acknowledged a defect, but they do acknowledge that due to technical problems, the cars get only around 30 mpg, not the 40 city, 42 combined, 45 highway, as advertised.

In the second case, Logan and Anita Lockabey, et al. v American Honda Motor Co., Inc., in addition to complaints similar to True, plaintiffs allege that a July 2010 Software Update to the Integrated Motor Assist (“IMA”) battery system for model years 2006-2008  Civic Hybrids negatively impacted the fuel economy and performance.

The proposed Honda Civic Hybrid Class Action Settlement is pretty paltry.  You get a whopping $100 if you are a member of the True class action and and additional $100 if you are also a member of the Lockabey class and sub-class (the software update).  As a “sweetener,” you get a voucher for either $500 or $1,000 (depending on your class and sub-class) towards the purchase or lease of a new Honda or Acura vehicle.  Some plaintiffs who had to replace their hybrid battery are eligible to be reimbursed for the cost of the replacement and Honda agreed to extend some warranties for a longer period.

Ms. Peters wasn’t happy with $100 in cash and a $500 voucher, so she opted out of the class action and pursued a novel course of action by suing Honda in Small Claims Court in Torrance, CA (the city where Honda has its US headquarters).  She is suing for damages including the “hybrid premium” paid over the price of a standard Civic, increased cost of gas due to getting only 30 mpg and reduced resale value of her car.  She may win up to the court maximum of $10,000 – far more than she would have received under the proposed class action settlement.

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid engine bay

This is a closely-watched case, needless to say.  If she wins, it could open the floodgates to individual small claims lawsuits against not just Honda but any company with class action litigation.   If a company had to defend itself against thousands of smaller suits – in all 50 states and hundreds of county jurisdictions – it could be very costly both in terms of total settlement dollars and human resources.

On the consumer side, a win may force corporations to increase class action settlements with plaintiffs. Perhaps if all the money wasn’t going to the trial attorneys (in the Honda class action, it’s estimated to be $8,474,000), less people would be pissed off enough to take alternative actions.   For example, if Honda had offered the people $1,000 cash plus a $4,000 voucher towards the purchase of a new Honda (and Honda would be required to take the technically-challenged Civic Hybrid in trade), Ms. Peters may not have opted for her more creative option.

In California, neither party is permitted to send an attorney – either in-house or outside council – to represent them in a small claims action.  The plaintiff, Ms. Peters, happens to be a former corporate defense attorney and is permitted to present her own case.  She probably has an edge over the average Civic Hybrid owner, but if she wins, other owners could use her tactics and adapt the evidence she will present to their specific set of facts and circumstances.

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid interior

Ms. Peters is encouraging other Civic Hybrid owners not to settle with Honda.  In a December 27, 2011 LA Times article, The Times estimated that 200,000 Civic Hybrids had been sold during the class action period. And due to resales, the number of people who could be eligible for compensation could be as high as 500,000.  Separately litigating possibly hundreds of thousands of small claims cases is a PR and financial nightmare Honda doesn’t want, but may get.

Even if Ms. Peters doesn’t win her case against Honda, other people who suffered damages could still try the same tactic in their local jurisdiction.  One judicial decision at the small claims level doesn’t necessarily mean the same results will happen in other jurisdictions – win or lose.  I predict this strategy will be used more frequently — much to the dismay of large companies and trial attorneys.

Here’s the press release from DontSettleWithHonda.org:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDecember 28, 2011 CONTACT: Heather Peters Info@DontSettleWithHonda.org

Viral Small Claims Case Could Sink 5 Class Action Settlements

and Cost Honda $2 Billion

Los Angeles, CA – Honda is on the brink of settling five class action lawsuits alleging false advertising of 50 MPG for its Civic Hybrids for pennies on the dollar, but one small claims case gone viral could change all of that and leave Honda facing liability of $2 billion instead and defending itself in thousands of small claims courts across the nation.

A front page article in the Los Angeles Times used the term “a small-claims flash mob” to describe the filing of a single small claims case against Honda in Torrance, California together with the launch of www.dontsettlewithhonda.org and its associated Twitter and YouTube sites that teach 200,000 other disgruntled Civic Hybrid owners nationwide how to “just say no” to a $100-$200 proposed class action settlement (where lawyers get $8.474 million) and take Honda to small claims court instead, where at least in California, lawyers are not allowed.

Heather Peters will have her day in small claims court on January 3rd and could win up to $10,000 (the new 2012 California small claims limit) in damages including the “hybrid premium” she paid over the sticker price, her increased costs of gas due to getting just 30 MPG and the reduced resale value of her car. It may be the biggest little small claims case that Honda will ever face evidenced by the fact that the Associated Press is sending the same reporter who covered the trials of Conrad Murray, O.J. Simpson and Rodney King. Ms. Peters, a former corporate defense attorney, 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. 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.”

It remains to be seen if the San Diego judge presiding over the five class action lawsuits against Honda for false advertising will approve the proposed settlement on March 16, 2012. A prior proposed settlement was rejected by the court when the Attorney Generals from twenty six states, including California, objected to it as unfair to consumers, and they may object again. Civic Hybrid owners have until February 11th to opt-out, or they can remain in the class and still object to the settlement.

Honda has attempted four different legal maneuvers to postpone the trial of Ms. Peters’ small claims case until after the deadline had passed for Hybrid owners to opt-out of the class action, but the small claims judge said “no” all four times and the trial will proceed as originally scheduled on January 3rd at 1:30 p.m. in Torrance Small Claims Court, Dept. 8, at 825 Maple Ave., Torrance, California. For more info about media access to the courtroom visit http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/courtnews/ui/main.aspx

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