An American woman who expected her hi-tech hybrid to be a high-mileage machine wants car maker Honda to pay for not delivering the 50mpg it promised.
But rather than being one of thousands in a class-action lawsuit, Heather Peters has taken her fight to the small claims court and says it could lead to similar cases throughout the world.
Experts say Ms Peters, of Los Angeles, has a better chance of winning her case in a court with more relaxed standards and could get a payout many times higher than the few hundred dollars offered to class-action plaintiffs.
Ms Peters said she had been contacted by hundreds of owners, some from as far away as Australia, who also want to take their chances with small claims.
If other owners follow her lead, she estimates Honda could be forced to pay as much as £1.3 billion in damages.
Ms Peters has launched a website, DontSettleWithHonda.org, urging others to take their complaints to the small claims court. "If I prevail and get 10,000 dollars, they have 200,000 of these cars out there," she said.
Ms Peters, a state employee and ex-lawyer, argues that the Japanese manufacturer knew her 2006 Civic Hybrid would not achieve the 50mpg as advertised before a judge in Torrance, California, where American Honda Motor Company has its West Coast headquarters. As the vehicle's battery deteriorated over time, it barely achieved 30mpg, she said.
Honda later said Ms Peters had never contacted the company to complain or express any concern about her vehicle's fuel economy until she sent a letter in late November and then filed her suit shortly afterwards.
"Once the suit was filed, Honda immediately offered to inspect her vehicle and work with her on the findings, but those offers were rejected," the company said in a statement.
The company also said it did not believe Ms Peters was deceived. "The window sticker that was attached to her vehicle (as required by federal law) clearly indicated that her mileage would vary depending on driving conditions, options, vehicle condition and other factors," the statement said.