Category: Crime & Punishment

By on May 21, 2017

chevrolet-suburban-2005

There wasn’t anything particularly bizarre happening within the automotive realm last week, so our Freaky Friday posting was absent from its usual rotation. However, while our writing staff was finishing its day, two car thieves threw a Hail Mary of weirdness down the field for a touchdown.

A beige Chevrolet Suburban owned by a contractor working for Daniel & Sons Funeral Home was transporting a corpse when witnesses claim 28-year-old Tanya Albrecht stole it from a convenience store parking lot in Bryan, Texas. The SUV had been left unattended with the keys in the ignition, presumably because the owner assumed nobody would want to steal a car with a dead body in the back.  Read More >

By on May 16, 2017

2016 Hyundai Sonata, Image: Hyundai Motor America

He lost his job for it, but Kim Gwang-ho, a 25-year Hyundai veteran at the automaker’s Seoul, South Korea facility, knew he needed to speak out.

The engineer blew the whistle on his employer, reporting the automaker to both South Korean and American officials after uncovering evidence Hyundai was covering up a defect in several of its models. Kim even published internal documents to back up his claim.

Kim, 55, was fired from his job, but authorities took note. As a result, a further 240,000 vehicles — totaling 12 models — have been added to a recall already 1.4 million strong. Read More >

By on May 11, 2017

Porsche cayenne diesel

Is was probably with a sigh of relief that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer granted final approval to a settlement for owners of 3.0-liter diesel Volkswagen Group vehicles earlier today. The issue has consumed no shortage of court time both before and after last December’s preliminary approval for a buyback, compensation and fix plan.

More than 80,000 Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi models were sold with engines rigged to cheat on emissions tests. Many of those units will now be bought back and others fixed — a plan with a minimum $1.22 billion price tag.

Breyer’s approval marks the end of the automaker’s main legal wranglings in the U.S. It also opens the cash floodgates, as even owners who opt for a fix will see a pile of crisp, clean dollars from VW. Read More >

By on May 9, 2017

Porsche cayenne diesel

While places like New York and California might come to mind first, no one bans things quite like the jurisdictions north of the border. Banning, a popular pastime given the cold outside temperatures, are always done in the hazy pursuit of public safety. Something bad could happen? Ban it.

When it comes to smoking, few will disagree that smoking in the workplace can have a negative impact on employees. The same goes for restaurant and bar patrons. As non-smoking areas (both indoors and outdoors) expand across the U.S., here’s a cautionary tale of how vindictive and overzealous an enforcer of these law can be.

They’ll nab you in your car. Read More >

By on May 4, 2017

rolling coal

Rolling coal is one of the more contentious forms of automotive customization, primarily because it’s as much associated with vindictive cruelty as it is with having a good time.

In fact, there are probably more videos on YouTube of modified diesel truck owners blasting cyclists, protesters, activists, and EV drivers with sooty smoke than there are not. Over the last few years, rolling coal has become a way for many to showcase their anti-environmentalist and hard-right viewpoints. However, regardless of your politics, being on the receiving end of a diesel truck intentionally running ultra-rich is obnoxious and several states have attempted to ban the practice.

After three failed attempts, Colorado finally managed to pull it off. While earlier attempts fizzled, mainly due to concerns expressed by the Republican-controlled Senate over how regulations might affect the trucking and agriculture industries, a revised bill better addressed those concerns. Now, law enforcement will undergo training to help differentiate between a smoky work truck and those specifically designed to run rich for the purpose of rolling.  Read More >

By on May 1, 2017

[Image: fourbyfourblazer/Flickr]

Twitter users are well aware of the hilarious and perplexing misadventures — usually fueled by alcohol or meth — of “Florida Man” and “Florida Woman,” but in Pinellas County, the person behind the wheel of your recently stolen vehicle is much more likely to be a Florida boy or girl.

There’s an epidemic afoot in the Gulf Coast county. Local law enforcement is scrambling to combat a growing tide of repeat juvenile car thieves as the danger on the county’s roads grows. Meanwhile, it seems local residents haven’t exactly made the thefts a difficult task. Read More >

By on April 27, 2017

[Image: goodharbor/Flickr]

A major auto industry supplier has found itself on the receiving end of a multi-million-dollar fine north of the border, following an investigation into an international bid-rigging conspiracy.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice leveled a fine of $13.4 million against Mitsubishi Electric on Tuesday for its role in the illegal agreement. The supplier pleaded guilty to three charges, making it only the most recent Japanese supplier to face expensive justice for landing a juicy — but dodgy — parts contract. Read More >

By on April 26, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

According to a report from a Minnesota news outlet, Mexican drug smugglers and their American co-conspirators are using imported Ford Fusions to ferry marijuana across the border.

The news follows recent drug busts in the state, with suspicion growing that the $1.4 million in weed found in 22 Fusions bound for dealerships is part of a larger smuggling ring. Read More >

By on April 22, 2017

2015 Volkswagen Golf family, Image: Volkswagen of America

April has brought good news to diesel lovers and haters on both sides of the border.

After spending the winter (and the better part of last fall) jealously eyeing their southern neighbor’s buyback and compensation program, Canadian owners can now apply for that longed-for envelope of Volkswagen cash, as well as a one-way-ticket to hell for their emissions-rigged TDI model.

On Friday, the automaker settled court cases in Ontario and Quebec, paving the way for a 2.0-liter diesel settlement program that starts next week. The models involved are the same as in the U.S. — 105,000 units in all — and owners and lessees face similar choices as their American counterparts.

Unlike the recent shadowy roll-out of half-fixed 2015 models in the U.S., several Canadian dealers are proudly advertising the availability of “new” TDIs. Read More >

By on April 17, 2017

[Image: Jeffrey Smith/Flickr]

Canada’s oh-so-green federal government sure isn’t concerned about one form of air pollution — clouds of marijuana smoke. With the country’s cities already infused with the tell-tale odor of wacky tobaccy, legislation has been tabled to make possession of the drug legal, perhaps by as early as July 2018.

Great news for grass aficionados, but a troubling turn of events for road safety advocates. The jury’s out on whether Canada’s law would spark an uptick in drugged driving, but the proposed methods of testing — and convicting — weedy drivers has raised other concerns. One group has a problem with the Great Green North’s strategy to root out baked motorists. Read More >

By on March 28, 2017

Brinks truck armored car

For a major city, Houston drivers spend far less time in rush-hour gridlock than those in other large U.S. metropolises. Last year, residents spent an average of 51.5 hours in gridlock, a number unchanged from the year before. Compare that to Los Angeles’ 104.1 hours, Atlanta’s 70.8, Washington, DC’s 61 or Boston’s 57.6.

Overall, Houston ranks the 11th worst city in the U.S. for congestion, despite having the fourth-largest population. The city’s relatively low density and spiderweb of highways makes traversing the urban area an easy task — a benefit for residents who enjoy the leafy suburban life.

Unfortunately, it could also explain the city’s popularity among armored car thieves. Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

Volkswagen Wolfsburg

Suspecting that a Volkswagen executive might fly the coop if released on bond while awaiting trial, a U.S. District Court judge slammed the cell door shut until early next year.

Oliver Schmidt, who was arrested early this year during a stopover in Miami, is currently cooling his heels in a Detroit jail after being slapped with conspiracy and fraud charges relating to the diesel emissions scandal. With a potential jail sentence of 169 years looming over his head, even $1.6 million ponied up by family and friends wasn’t enough to secure his release. Read More >

By on March 10, 2017

Volkswagen Wolfsburg

The Volkswagen diesel emissions saga has reached a logical legal conclusion. The automaker entered a guilty plea in a Detroit federal courtroom this morning, admitting to a vast, 10-year conspiracy to fool environmental regulators through the use of emissions-cheating defeat devices.

As penance, Volkswagen AG must now pay $4.3 billion in criminal fines and civil penalties. That sum can now be added to the multi-billion U.S. buyback of hundreds of thousands of 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesel vehicles manufactured since 2009. While the penalties would be a bitter pill for any automaker to swallow, it’s a fraction of the fine allowed under federal guidelines.

Had the court pursued it, it might have sparked a brand fire sale down at Volkswagen Group. Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

lawsuit

Based in Germany and nabbed by federal agents in Florida, Volkswagen’s one-time top emissions compliance manager for the U.S. made an appearance in a federal courtroom in Detroit today.

Indicted, along with five others, on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. and violating the Clean Air Act, Oliver Schmidt isn’t about to face down hard time without a fight. The executive pleaded not guilty to the charges, reports The Detroit News. Read More >

By on February 24, 2017

tires

Remember when recycling was new and sexy and every 1980s sitcom included it as a subplot in at least one cringe-inducing episode? It was around the time that McDonald’s took away that convenient styrofoam container — you know, the one that stored a Big Mac on one side and a delicious pile of fries on the other.

Times change. Recycling is mundane, but it’s bigger than ever — and there’s no doubt about the environmental benefits. Unfortunately, there can also be unforeseen financial benefits for less-than-honest operators, especially if a program’s creator doesn’t keep watch on who’s minding the till.

If that creator is the government, things can get messy. Consider this cautionary tale of a massive program that went rotten so badly that it had to be scrapped. Read More >

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