Sunday, August 14, 2005

Another Chance to Solve the Riddle

Recently I received a notice from Honda about a small defect Honda Civic Hybrid's produced between '03-05. Honda's corporate office is encouraging all owners to bring the car into their local dealer for an inspection. I have set my appointment for this coming Wednesday, and I hope along the way to figure out once and for all why my hybrid only gets 32-33 MPG. I sincerely hope they find a genuine defect with my car. (We got nowhere last time.) The irony of the timing is that I just got contacted (yet again) by a national media outlet looking to "profile" my story. I'm truly ambivalent, and will probably pass. Frankly, I'm still rooting on the sidelines for Honda (I still have my "Mo Miles" license plate. I also spend a good deal of my regular "work hours" advising companies (including auto players) on how to manage customer relationships and word-of-mouth, or what I term consumer-generated media (CGM). I do have one important piece of free advice for Honda, motivated by the skyrocketing price of gas. Honda and its ad agency should really rethink the "Calculate Savings" utility prominently displayed on their website. I punched in a few numbers into this utility and compared it to the mileage of my last vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee Laredo, and the total advertised savings, $2600 over 5 years, seem indefensible in light of complaints out there (not to mention near universal acknowlegement that EPA mileage labeling is is faulty and innacurate. As gas prices continue to skyrocket, this utility has the potential to become even more misleading.


At 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been researching buying a hybrid for some time. With gas prices at record highs and only expected to rise, that time seems much closer than it did just a few months ago.

I've read industry information. I've read reviewer information. I've read pro's, cons, and nothing-but-the-facts reviews from people who have bought hybrid vehicles.

As I read this blog (over a several day period) I noticed something - Pete loves his car.

Sure, he was disappointed with the actual mileage he encountered over the lofty promises on the window sticker. Like a lot of people, he blamed the dealer, the manufacturer, the EPA. But never once did I read that he encouraged someone NOT to buy the car.

Quite the contrary, he has done everything possible to salvage the relationships, beliefs and technologies involved with hybrid vehicles.

Does it matter that Pete is a former P&G marketing executive? Hardly. Does it matter that he sold his story to CBS and Newsweek? No more than it matters that Bob Lawrence is a former newsman and now a marketing executive who produces videos for a living. They both had and have stories to tell.

The truth, as in all things, is often a mix of all the information available - a shade of grey rather than the crisp 'he-said, she-said' black and white reporting of competing interests.

Are Honda's mileage estimates off? You bet. Do they know that? You bet. Are they doing anything about it? I can't answer that. Is the EPA? I can't answer that either. But the truth remains that there are enough published reports that consumers can make a wise and informed decision before buying a hybrid vehicle.

And don't just blame the dealers, manufacturers and the goverment agencies in charge of testing. Pete lives in Cincinnati - a town historically known for its seven hill communities and lying in the Ohio River Valley. On small engines, up and down driving, combined with the poor air quality found there 9 months of the year will affect overall performance greatly.

So the bottom line is, this website offers an unbiased first person account of how one hybrid vehicle performed in one midwestern city. If you want to own a hybrid, as I do, you'll take it into account. But probably no more than the dozens of other factors influencing you to buy in the first place... The economy, the price of gas, ecological factors, ease of use, etc.

Whatever his reason, Pete still loves his car. And as potential buyers of hybrid vehicles, we should thank him for his obvious effort in not only maintaining this site, but trying to make hybrids easier cars to love through realistic expectations and delivered promises.

Don Crouse

At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All EPR estimates are not wrong!

Reading through this blog the blame seems to be placed on the EPA for coming up with tests that unrealistically inflate gas mileage values.

I have not seen this to be consistently true. My impression is that Toyota and Honda have learned how to optimize their vehicles not for real world gas mileage, but to get the highest number on the EPA tests.

Prius and Civic Hybrid EPA estimate is way above any real world values I've heard of.

For comparison, I have a 2002 VW Golf TDI (diesel). Its rated 42 city, 49 highway. I drive this thing like I'm hot rodding it everywhere I go, no pampering. Typical mileage I get is 47-48. Lowest we've ever had is 45. Highest we've had over multiple tanks is 58. Yes 58, well ABOVE the 49 rating.

We recently bought a Toyota Sienna and I've been shocked at how poor its mileage is relative to the EPA estimates. We get 16 in a city highway mix while its rated 19/24.

Other cars I've owned have almost always fallen within EPA mileage estimate range. I can only assume that the manufacturers have become better at optimizing for the EPA test.

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 2002 Toyota Prius, and I am completely satisfied. My Prius' combined mileage is a solid 47 mpg for the last 3 years.
The EPA estimates on my Prius were stated as 52 Highway / 45 City, so my Prius is about where I thought the mileage would be on this year Prius.
I believe that the owner of the Honda Hybrid has a lemon car because about two years a ago a person in San Diego had the same issue until Honda stepped in and gave him a new hybrid car.

I recommend the Toyota Prius, period!

Stay away from Honda (personal opinion).

Do what I did, go to and find a location nearest to you to rent a hybrid. Rent it for a week if you can and really find out what a hybrid can do for you.
Try a Prius one day then a Honda the next, what can you lose? Or should I say what is the price for making the right decision for you?

At 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I stumbled across your site while putting together a portfolio of information in an effort to dissuade a friend from buying a Hybrid. Even with this in mind I can't help but be suprised by the trail of confused propaganda against Honda and hybrids for that matter. (Yes I understand this a blog.) Still... Wired Magazine ran an article quoting Pete Blackshaw's gas mileage at 1,000 miles on the odometer to be 31.4 in city, yet failed to mention that he still had another 4,000 miles to go before the vehicle was broke-in. Will Pete get the high mileage posted on the sticker? Probably not, but Hondas and Toyotas don't start getting anywhere near sticker until the first oil change. For your Civic Hybrid, that was 5,000 miles. A reader posted that Honda and Toyota have learned to use the EPA system to lie about gas mileage. Um. As opposed to whom? I have never had a problem achieving highway gas mileage for my past Honda and Toyota vehciles. I've owned both. And while I've never owned a Hybrid and would never buy one (as a simple equation and a little common sense will show you: 1. That hybrids are NOT more cost efficient and 2. There's nothing green about NiMH battery pack disposal...) I can't help but be dissapointed at the angles being played in the arguments against Honda/Toyota and hybrids for that matter. Another blogger posted: "We recently bought a Toyota Sienna...we get 16 in a city highway mix while its rated 19/24." Again, what's the mileage?Are you using the premium gas that figure based on? Is that city/highway mix rich on city and lean on highway? I've NEVER gotten the posted "IN CITY" gas mileage out of anything. EVER. Highway Mileage however has always been easy to achieve in both the Honda and Toyota line. (Hybrid claims aside.) And finally, (now i'm nitpicking) I read another user post that said "stay away from Honda." Good luck with that, they're the world's largest engine manufacturer. Own a Saturn Vue 2004/2005? You own a Honda engine. And Honda makes a GREAT engine and a GREAT car. This same blogger went on to claim a consistent 47 miles per gallon our of his/her Prius, (which is great!,) but Again, there was no note as to the Prius driver's city to highway ratio with that consistent 47 miles per gallon. I have the suspicion it was all highway. Hybrids don't make sense. Period. How do you pick one over the other and argue it's merits? Example: If it takes 150,000 miles on average to recoup the extra money you spent on your Hybrid to begin with, (assumming the car gets sticker) why should anyone be worried about what the hybrid is doing a few years or thousand miles into the equation?

A good recommendation? If you want great reliable gas mileage at a good price? Want to be a little greener? Get a Honda Civic HX. No Hybrid motor. No gimmic. Very inexpensive. Done.

At 1:05 AM, Anonymous Peter Thompson said...

I just bought a 2003 Civic Hybrid. Traded in a 2005 Corolla and I am very happy. I'm getting about 51 mpg on hihway driving and 43 mpg in the city.

I calculated this from actual fill ups, not entirely trusting the in car gauges, but they have proven to be accurate.

I wonder what is wrong with your vehicle.

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At 9:07 AM, Blogger nope said...


I'm sorry for being intrusive in to your blog. But I am Melissa and I am a mother of two that is just trying to get out of an incredible financial debt. See my hubby is away in Iraq trying to protect this great country that we live in, and I am at home with our two kids telling bill collectors please be patiant. When my husband returns from war we will beable to catch up on our payments. We have already had are 2001 Ford repossessed from the bank, and are now down to a 83 buick that is rusted from front to back and the heater don't work, and tire tax is due in November.

I'm not asking for your pitty because we got our ownselfs into this mess but we would love you and thank you in our prayers if you would just keep this link on your blog for others to view.

God Bless You.

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At 10:16 AM, Blogger Evan Kane said...

Its all about where and HOW you drive. Sure there are weeks in the winter when I only average 35mpg to 38mpg but I also just did a 4,000 road trip and averaged 51mpg (I drove 60mph.) Most weeks (and I only have to fill up once a week or less) I average between 47mpg to 49mpg just like the sticker says. Only downside is all the people honking at me for slowing down as I come to a red light, not creeping up to the bumper of the car in front of me at a stoplight (so the engine wont come on), for not getting from 0 to 45mph as fast as I can and for not driving 75mph on the expressway.

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At 4:22 AM, Blogger Beth said...

We just bought a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid. We've only had it about a week, but so far so good. I was looking around for information on them because my dad (who also believed in Y2K) mentioned he'd heard about the batteries exploding, and I wanted to check it out. So far, no information on that, but I did find your blog, so I got something out of the search! We needed a car, went to the dealer, and looked at Hondas. We ended up with the Hybrid because it was $12,000, in great condition, and living in Houston means lots of time spent in your car. More importantly, most of that time is spent at a standstill, so our "highway" mpg is something we only dream about here... That being said, since my car is off for about 50% of my drive time, and going down-hill (or down-highway hill at any rate) about 25% of the time, the car makes sense here. We weren't expecting amazing mpg... just better than the 19/24 that some people think is alright. That being said, I'm pretty happy with the 35-45 range. I hope your car isn't damaged from the theft. But if it is... maybe you can trade up for a newer model? Good luck!

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