What You Might Call A Lie, Some Would Call “Marketing”

I spent the better part of the last month looking to buy a new car.  I have to say, I am quite surprised at the tactics that would be employed to sell a car.  It’s bad enough that we are in a bit of an economic, erm, situation borne of borrowing too much and living beyond our means, but to willfully create fiscal irresponsibility is something I could not let go.

Let me start by saying I ultimately bought the Honda Odyssey from the lot in question, Bellevue Honda.  The sales person, Gil, was a great guy, and had nothing to do with my issue.  I take Honda to task.  Since I didn’t notice this “issue” until the day that I was buying the car, I don’t know whether or not this is an issue with other lots.  I suspect it is.

Honda Insight This first picture is from the window of a Honda Insight.  At a whopping 40-45 miles per gallon, what’s not to like about this car?  Sounds great, and the $1,464 in fuel costs per year sounded normal to me.  Normal is a relative term, of course, and I didn’t do the math in my head to sort out if this number made any real sense at all.  It wasn’t until I wandered past a Honda Pilot that I did a double take, with the words “WTF” flying out of my mouth.


PIC-0082 You see, the Honda Pilot is one of those SUVs.  They tend to drink gasoline.  I should know, I used to own one.  This sticker shows that they get 16-22 miles per gallon.  That’s an improvement over the initial model year (when I was an owner), but clearly worse than the Insight, right?  Apparently, your estimated fuel costs for the Pilot will be about $1,585 per year.  Again, WTF?  At first I thought that Honda was playing games with the number of miles per year that someone would be driving.  You know, because someone who is driving a hybrid will drive that shit to death because of all the great gas mileage they are getting.  Nope, it turns out that they estimate 15,000 miles per year on both cars.

So the culprit lay at the feet of the estimated fuel costs.  $4.10 per gallon for the Insight and $1.90 for the Pilot.  Again, WTF?  I really, really want to believe that this is not a calculated move on the part of Honda, and in fact the fuel prices reflect the reality of the fuel costs at the time the lot took ownership of the car.  Regardless, with that kind of spread in pricing, the lots should take the initiative and change the stickers in the cars to reflect a price of gasoline more in line with reality.  At $1.90, the estimated fuel costs for the Insight would be about $680.  The Pilot, at $4.10 per gallon, would estimate out to about $3,400.

Again, I want to believe that Honda just dropped the ball.  I don’t want to think that since SUVs have historically been the profit honey pots for car dealerships that they are maliciously misleading customers with an artificially low per year fuel costs to make them seem more affordable.

  • If Honda sent these figures through the U.S. Postal Service, they could be convicted of Wire Fraud.

    However, I believe the FTC should take a look at your post.


  • Sorry, make that Mail Fraud. If on the Internet, Wire Fraud.


  • Brandon Watson

    My guess is that the price of fuel was true at the time they printed those flyers up…and specific to the local market where the car was built (if in the US). Regardless, with prices in gas fluctuating the way they are, they really out to have some quality control for cars that are on the lot…specifically these cars, which were in the “on-display” locations.

  • I find it more odd that it suggests that the auto gets 40-45 MPG?! Honda says between 17-25 expected depending on model. The US government reports the same here: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm.

    So, where are those 40-45 numbers coming from?