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Your New Car Might Count More Miles Than You Drive

Posted March 13, 2007

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— Many people would not be surprised to hear that odometer fraud is a problem in the used-car market, but an investigation by CBS News has turned up suspicious mileage readings in new cars.

Odometers that show more mileage than was traveled have been the subject of two lawsuits—one against Honda that’s been settled and one against Nissan that’s pending.

In the used-car market, the federal government estimates that about 450,000 vehicles are sold every year with false mileage readings. That costs buyers more than $1 billion a year.

No one has an estimate, however, for the new-car market, where mileage that adds up faster than it should can shorten warranties, raise lease costs and reduce resale value.

"I feel cheated in that I'm being cheated out of miles that I haven't driven," said Sharon McQuiston, a Honda owner.

The odometer on McQuiston's Honda SUV says she's driven 25,000 miles, but she's really gone 500 miles less. Her car is one of millions of Hondas with faulty odometers.

"They were accelerated. They registered more miles than the car actually traveled," said attorney James Holmes, who tested the odometers in many Honda models. He said that on average, they run 2 percent fast.

"Over the lifetime of your car, or the lifetime of your lease or your warranty, you're talking about hundreds, even thousands of miles that are being stripped off of those cars that they've never been driven," Holmes said.

A class-action suit that Holmes filed against Honda claimed the company designed odometers to run too fast.

"It shortened the warrantees. It shortened the lease contracts. It increased the lease mileage penalties that customers pay, and as a result, Honda was able to generate and save millions of dollars," Holmes argued.

Honda said the error was an accident, an oversight, in 2002 through 2006 models and that new models are more accurate. In a settlement, the company agreed to extend warranties on 6 million cars and to reimburse owners for out-of-pocket repairs and lease fees.

What about other vehicle brands, though?

To find out, CBS teamed up with the Society of Automotive Engineers, the group that sets voluntary odometer standards. They used a global positioning system to track the real mileage cars traveled during 40-mile trips.

The Ford Taurus, Chevy Impala, and Toyota RAV4 all passed, but the Nissan Altima's odometer ran more than 2 percent fast.

“Two percent with new tires, I start to get suspicious," said Jim Smith, who carried out the tests.

James Holmes found the error in 10 Altimas and filed a class-action suit against Nissan. He said he’s on a crusade to expose faulty odometers so that consumers get every mile they pay for.

Nissan declined comment, but denied in court documents that it has inaccurate odometers, saying they meet all industry standards.


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  • futbalfantic Mar 20, 2007

    cheat the company. Buy a tire a size or two to big and less miles will show up than what is on it.. save your tail down the road

  • hail2opeth Mar 20, 2007

    Well if Nissian is meeting "industrial standard" with cars having these odometer errors, then it's high time those standard were changed!

  • jfc516242 Mar 19, 2007

    OH MY Gosh, My cars is 500 miles better than the odometer states.... Who cares, Pay the bills.

  • shakennotstirred Mar 16, 2007

    Honda extended their warranties, mine was made in Canada, my fathers great "american made" truck was made in Mexico, the "American" vehicles represented in Nascar are are not made in America except for most Toyotas... don't wave the American flag just because you have a blue oval or bowtie on your vehicle... I also own a pontiac Vibe which has 40000 miles on it, gets 33 mpg's, and has never been to any shop, but just because it says Pontiac on the grill (with it's toyota motor) doesn't mean I bought American... I pretty much go with Consumer Reports and so far have been very satisfied...

  • Z Man Mar 16, 2007

    For the 1st post... the car being worth 'far less' is a major exaggeration. Look in the milaes charts, 2% is worth about 8 cents on a good day!

    It does not say whether or not the speedo is affected - though with my automotive background, the speedo and odo have always correalted. Therefore you Honda owners that pin your speedo on 65 MPH on I40 are really traveling 63.7 MPH! No wonder I run up on their bumpers! Speed the damn thing up will ya!

  • pclifton Mar 15, 2007

    Dear God, a lawsuit over 2% error? Normal tire wear would easily result in a 2% error. Guess what? If your odometer reads correctly with brand-new tires, then it's probably 2-3% off by the time you go to get new tires put on. Even sticking with stock-sized tires, different brands of tires are going to have slightly different overall diameters.

    I'd put the margin of error at which it could be considered a problem at 5% or more.

  • just4girls1guy Mar 15, 2007

    i bought one of the big three. i had this grand idea that I was buying american. great! i was flipping through the paperwork and realised the engine was built in Mexico. already having problems with it. it has less that 22,000 miles. next time i won't but a mexican/american built car. lol

  • Irock Mar 15, 2007

    Sprice, changing tire size from oem will alter gas milage, mph, and odometer reading. Also, "'merican jeep" is made by Diamler/chrysler which is also and mostly mitsubishi parts.

  • poorboy Mar 15, 2007

    you mean there are good things about hondas that not just media over-rated them. I've owed GM's and Ford's for years and they have given me the best services ever. never in the shop except oil changes and tires

  • kcfoxie Mar 15, 2007

    Bad transmissions and now odometer fraud, I'm finding more things negative about Honda everyday.