Nightly News   |  January 04, 2012

Woman sues Honda over fuel-economy claims

A woman is suing Honda, claiming her Civic Hybrid never delivered the fuel-economy figures publicized by the automaker. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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>>> when you buy a car you kind of know it's a buyer beware business. the mileage numbers on the window sticker often don't reflect actual road conditions. a woman bought a hybrid for the promise of 50 miles per gallon . the story from nbc's kristen dahlgren.

>> reporter: it didn't start as a story of david versus goliath.

>> i just wanted my car fixed. i didn't intend to be a crusader.

>> reporter: but that's exactly what heather peters' fight with honda has become. she loved her 2006 civic hybrid .

>> it was green. it helped the environment.

>> reporter: and it would get 50 miles to the gallon. she says it never did.

>> i'm getting 29.3 miles per gallon .

>> reporter: she heard about a class action suit by other angry owners, but the payoff, $200 and a discount toward a new honda .

>> no! absolutely not.

>> reporter: peters, a former lawyer, took the matter to small claims court .

>> the second element of fraud --

>> reporter: she's suing honda for the small claim maximum, $10,000. this could be about more than $10,000 if peters is successful. other car owners could follow suit, foregoing class action for thousands of individual cases. tara winegarden said it's not just honda .

>> the e.p.a. needs to step in and say, let's look at how we evaluate real world driving mileage and figure out a new way to more accurately reflect what we actually get.

>> reporter: honda insists peters never complained until the lawsuit saying, we do not believe ms. peters was deceived. the window sticker clearly indicated that her mileage would vary. honda argued in court --

>> the biggest effect is how you drive.

>> reporter: peters has a website offering other drivers a lawsuit blueprint. while they wait for the judge to mail his ruling it seems her small claim may already have wheels. kristen dahlgren, nbc news, los angeles .