Honda's odometers go the extra mile

An odometer

BOB MOON: When it's come time to sell that used car, how many of us have wished that we could somehow roll back the odometer? That would be cheating, of course.But what if the odometer really should be rolled back because it shows more miles than you've actually put on the car?

Honda is telling 6 million car owners that their odometers may, indeed, have rolled up miles too fast.As Eric Niiler reports, that may have voided warranties before their time:


ERIC NIILER: Honda is offering owners of all Honda and Acura models from 2002 to 2006 an extra 5 percent on their warranty mileage. The Japanese firm is also giving people refunds on penalties they may have paid for driving beyond their lease limits.

Honda spokesman Sage Marie says the company did nothing wrong and is following an industry standard which allows different calibrations.

SAGE MARIE: That's based on the fact that there's some fundamental variance in all odometers.

But attorney James Holmes disagrees. He says cars made in Detroit manage to be right on the money, and that Honda was trying to cut down on warranty costs.

JAMES HOLMES: Modern odometer is really nothing more than a calculator. And it's as simple as telling your calculator that two plus two is four. Or, you can do as Honda did and tell it that two plus two is four and a half.

Holmes sued Honda after a fellow attorney in Texas noticed that his cars — one a Mazda, the other a Honda minivan — recorded different miles on trips to his grandma's house.

Auto expert Lawrence Ulrich said Honda needs to keep customer loyalty.

LAWRENCE ULRICH: If these days, customer service is what kinda separates one auto company from another, and most people who come into a dealer say 1,000 miles out of their warranty with a major mechanical problem, a dealer is going to help you out with that repair.

Under terms of the settlement, Honda has agreed to make its odometers more accurate. Attorney Holmes has now set his sights on Nissan.

In Washington, I'm Eric Niiler for Marketplace.

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