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Honda to Fix Battery Software in 90,000 Civic Hybrids

Honda Motor Co., Japan’s second-biggest seller of gasoline-electric cars, will fix a software flaw in about 90,000 Civic Hybrids sold in the U.S. that can cause their batteries to wear out sooner than expected.

Honda informed owners of model years 2006 through 2008 Civic Hybrids of the flaw starting this month and asked them to bring the vehicles into dealerships so the software could be reprogrammed. The repairs are being done as a “technical service bulletin” rather than a recall because the problem doesn’t endanger driver safety, said Christina Ra, a spokeswoman for Honda’s U.S. unit.

Ra couldn’t immediately confirm whether any of the nickel- metal hybrid batteries sold in the U.S. failed because of the flaw. The software modification affects how the battery is used and won’t reduce fuel economy for the compact sedans, she said.

Honda trails larger rival Toyota Motor Corp. in both U.S. and global hybrid sales. The Tokyo-based company’s CR-Z coupe arrives in the U.S. this month to aid flagging Civic Hybrid and Insight sales, which are down 31 percent this year to 15,853 vehicles in the nation. Toyota hybrid sales, accounting for 70 percent of U.S. sales of the fuel-saving autos, rose 2.6 percent to 108,356 through July.

The batteries may deteriorate and fail much earlier than their warranty of at least eight years and 100,000 miles, Honda said.

Japan Fix

The company also started fixing the same problem in about 16,000 Civics in Japan from the end of July, said spokeswoman Yasuko Matsuura in Tokyo. The vast majority of cars with the flaw are in Japan and the U.S., she said.

Ra also couldn’t immediately confirm whether the software flaw was first discovered by company engineers or consumers. Model 2009 and 2010 Civic Hybrids don’t need the repair as Honda already made minor adjustments to battery system components in those vehicles, Ra said.

The company this week also said it would recall 384,220 Accord and Civic cars and Element wagons to fix faulty ignition parts. Honda’s U.S. operations are based in Torrance, California.

Honda’ shares fall 2.8 percent in Tokyo to 2,793 yen as of the 11 a.m. trading break. The stock has declined 10 percent this year. Toyota has fallen 22 percent.

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