Category: Government

By on August 15, 2017

merkel

After a lot of back and forth on citywide diesel bans and loads of corporate scandal, the German automotive industry has taken a public beating. However, with a few politicians still left in its corner, it’s managed to avoid some of Europe’s anti-combustion wrath. Proposed diesel bans haven’t yet come into effect, but there remains a strong contingent to force change with Chancellor Angela Merkel suddenly taking a greener stance as an election looms.

There’s no shortage of controversy surrounding Europe’s automotive industry, and much of it surrounds environmental issues. The public solution is to move away from fossil fuels and promote electric vehicles through regulatory action within the next few decades — an idea Merkel now openly supports.

“I don’t want to name an exact year,” she said in a recent interview with SUPERillu. But she also believes Britain and France’s plans to phase out internal-combustion cars by 2040 is “the right approach.” Read More >

By on August 11, 2017

pumping fuel

While the Trump administration continues gearing itself up to loosen fuel standards for automakers, much to the chagrin of environmentalists and other countries, the agencies that set those benchmarks want to pick your brain a little before making a final decision. You’ve got an opportunity to be part of the process — the painfully boring, yet incredibly important, process.

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation opened a public comment period on the reconsideration of the standards for greenhouse gas emissions for light vehicles built for the 2022-2025 model years. Additionally, the EPA wants comments on the appropriateness of the existing 2021 standards. The agencies are inviting the public to submit any relevant (i.e. factual) data and information that can inform a final decision of the standards.  Read More >

By on August 11, 2017

wells fargo

California’s insurance regulators have launched an investigation into Wells Fargo following the bank’s confession that it forced hundreds of thousands of auto loan borrowers to pay for insurance policies they didn’t need and, in many cases, were unaware of.

There’s also a congressional investigation underway, where U.S. senators are asking the company basic questions like who was affected, how broadly, whether they get a refund, and why the hell this occurred in the first place.

Unlike JPMorgan Chase or Bank of America, Wells Fargo’s auto loan contracts allowed the lender to obtain collateral protection insurance on a customer’s behalf if they failed to buy liability coverage themselves — or if the bank assumed they hadn’t. It’s not common practice and, when it causes paying customers to default and have their vehicle repossessed, it’s not difficult to see why.  Read More >

By on August 8, 2017

FCA - Auburn Hills

Automotive conspiracies are all the rage right now. However, my current favorite is the cooperative machinations between Fiat Chrysler employees and UAW representatives to embezzle millions from a joint training fund.

On Tuesday, former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden entered a guilty plea at a hearing in federal courtroom in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Durden aims to cooperate with prosecutors (in exchange for a reduced sentence) as they build their case against other conspirators — specifically Alfons Iacobelli, FCA’s former head of labor relations, and Monica Morgan, widow of General Holiefield, the UAW’s former head of its Chrysler division.

The pair are alleged to have the siphoned over a million dollars from the FCA-UAW Joint Training Center between 2009 and 2014, blowing the majority of it on home expansions, fancy cars, first-class plane tickets, and extravagant baubles. Meanwhile, Durden was caught failing to file a tax return for the approximately $4,000 he received in 2013. Oh, and for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. Read More >

By on August 4, 2017

Volkswagen VW Badge Emblem Logo

Oliver Schmidt, a German national and Volkswagen’s former emissions compliance manager in the United States, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Detroit for his role in the massive diesel emissions scandal. However, he didn’t cop to the complete list of charges.

Instead of the 11 felonies and 169 years of possible prison time he was initially charged with, Schmidt is down to just a couple — conspiring to mislead U.S regulators and violating the Clean Air Act. This makes him eligible for a maximum of seven years behind bars or, more likely, no jail time at all.  Read More >

By on July 28, 2017

2017 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel

The light-duty Chrysler diesel is back. After a bevy of undeclared emissions control devices sank Fiat Chrysler Automobiles into a cauldron of hot water back in January, U.S. regulators have certified 2017 models powered by the company’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6.

Having spent the last half-year cooling their heels, unsold Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee oil-burners are once again legal for sale to torque- and economy-obsessed buyers.

FCA earned itself plenty of bad PR after the Environmental Protection Agency all but accused the automaker of a Volkswagen-like scheme to deceive the U.S. government and cheat on emissions tests. The undeclared software amounted to a violation of the Holy Grail of environmental legislation: the Clean Air Act. Software tweaks have now rendered the engine compliant, earning a certificate of conformity (also known as a thumbs up) from the EPA.

Too bad about that Justice Department lawsuit. Read More >

By on July 26, 2017

Exhaust pipe of running vehicle, Image: By Ruben de Rijcke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Britain will ban the sale of all new gasoline and diesel cars starting in 2040 as part of the government’s plan to reduce air pollution and copy France. The strategy, fronted by U.K. environment secretary Michael Gove and transport secretary Chris Grayling, would not only ban the future sale of internal combustion engines, but also provide a governmental incentive program similar to the United States’ Car Allowance Rebate System — colloquially known as “cash for clunkers.”

Because, as you know, nothing is better for the environment (or the used car market) than populating scrapyards with fully functional automobiles and having factories across the globe expend extra energy to replace them.

“We can’t carry on with diesel and petrol cars,” Gove told British television audiences on Wednesday. “There is no alternative to embracing new technology.”  Read More >

By on July 25, 2017

Volkswagen VW Badge Emblem Logo

Oliver Schmidt, former top executive at Volkswagen’s environmental and engineering center in Michigan, is ready to plead guilty in a U.S. District Court in Detroit next month. Schmidt is charged with 11 felony counts relating to VW’s diesel emissions scandal and may be eligible for a maximum sentence of 169 years, according to federal prosecutors.

While the trial isn’t scheduled until August 4th, a spokesman for the court indicated the former-VW executive is seeking a plea deal. The details of the bargain are currently unknown, but it’s likely to involve a reduced sentence in exchange of information on the scandal’s murky history.  Read More >

By on July 23, 2017

Volkswagen Blue

Government authorities are concerned that Germany’s automakers have been running one of the biggest CARtels in history. Allegedly active since the 1990s, automakers used secret working groups to remain in cahoots on decisions regarding technical issues, suppliers, and cost suppression. The groups may have even set the table for Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal by encouraging regulatory cheating.

Major manufacturers had apparently agreed on the size of the tanks containing AdBlue, Germany’s preferred diesel treatment fluid to reduce exhaust emissions, and decided the units should be small to keep fluid prices up. When the entire system turned out to be insufficient in meeting regulatory guidelines, illegal software manipulation became the alternative solution.  Read More >

By on July 18, 2017

Old Assembly Factory floor

Despite President Trump having initially framed his proposed NAFTA renegotiations as a hardline “America First” endeavor, the administration’s stance has soften significantly. In a recent summary of objectives, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer highlighted fairness as the key issue throughout.

Absent were any mention of abandoning the deal if certain conditions were not met and the steep tariffs previously alluded to by the president. In fact, any mention of tariffs specifically targeted their reduction or elimination — for both imported and exported goods. There are, however, numerous examples that reaffirm the Trump administration’s earlier objectives and a handful of inclusions that should please domestic automakers. Read More >

By on July 14, 2017

V2V Intersection

Despite the Federal Communications Commission making a mess of net neutrality right now, it remains capable of serving corporate interests and the general public simultaneously. On Thursday, the FCC quintupled the allocation of the radio spectrum used for motor vehicle and aircraft radar systems to help avoid crashes.

While the majority of autonomous cars also use laser guidance and a complex network of cameras to navigate, radar remains an integral component. Presently, the 1 GHz of spectrum set aside in 1995 has been sufficient for self-driving vehicles using adaptive cruise control or automatic emergency braking. But we’re about to enter an era of connected cars that will be required to “speak” to one another, and those vehicles will need plenty of space to talk — 5 GHz of bandwidth, to be precise.  Read More >

By on July 13, 2017

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK. Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz.

After a pair of Mercedes-Benz engines garnered increased scrutiny from regulatory agencies, the German government has summoned executives from Daimler to account for its activities as a new diesel emissions probe picks up steam.

The automaker has confirmed several of its representatives are attending a hearing on Thursday afternoon to speak with the German Transport Ministry — just one day after news broke that Stuttgart investigators believed some diesel-powered Mercedes vehicles may have been equipped with defeat devices between 2008 and 2016.

The investigation centers around the OM642 V6 and OM651 inline-four turbo-diesels, both of which are under suspicion of being equipped with illegal technology used to circumvent emissions testing. Interesting, Mercedes gave up on certifying diesel-driven vehicles in the United States this year after four models Benz had hoped to sell failed to obtain regulatory approval.  Read More >

By on July 9, 2017

pumping fuel

Automakers’ ability to adhere to the regulatory standards set by the U.S. government are beginning to slip. Manufacturers predicted industry-wide economy inadequacies for 2016 model year vehicles, anticipating things would only worsen for 2017. The Trump administration has framed itself as a friend to automotive companies, with the president himself claiming he would remove regulatory hurdles while in office. Corporate economy guidelines established under President Obama are already under review, but now so are the penalties companies would have to pay for not meeting them.

In a regulatory filing on Friday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would be seeking public comment on how to revise plans, slated to go into effect from the 2019 model year, which would more than double the penalties on auto manufacturers that fall short of meeting the government-set economy targets.  Read More >

By on June 30, 2017

BMW Spartanburg Assembly Plant Factory

As the Trump administration applies pressure to encourage companies to manufacture goods within U.S. borders and bolster American employment (or potentially face towering tariffs), the president has more recently come out against foreign automakers directly. In late May, Trump responded to criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel by accusing her country of having a trade surplus with the United States — claiming its automakers send vehicles to North America while providing little else. Trump has levelled similar criticism at China.

However, there’s a problem with his assertion. Foreign companies may not always contribute the majority of their wealth towards improving the U.S. economy, but they do invest heavily into the country. In fact, a recent analysis of federal jobs data shows two-thirds of the 656,000 manufacturing jobs created between 2010 and 2014 can be attributed directly to foreign investment.

Accurate employment figures for the following years aren’t yet available. But, with an additional $700 billion in capital coming in from non-domestic sources, total foreign investment reached $3.7 trillion by the end of 2016 — a new record.  Read More >

By on June 29, 2017

fuel gauge

A recent study from Consumers Union — the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports — shows continued interest among U.S. residents in seeing automakers improve fuel economy figures, even as gas prices remain fairly low.

While this should come as a shock to no one, nearly nine in 10 surveyed consumers agreed automakers should continue improving fuel efficiency standards on all vehicles. As well, only 30 percent believed manufacturers actually cared about lowering fuel costs for their customers.

This might be true but, then again, why would automakers do such a thing when the general populace has essentially turned its back on economical passenger cars? With little incentive to sell them, especially if the Trump administration alters 2025 emission targets, any top-tier automaker focusing exclusively on building MPG-focused automobiles would be placing itself at major financial risk.

The survey indicated fuel economy as the area perceived to possess the most room for improvement in modern vehicles. However, consumers have not used their wallets to bolster economy car sales. There appears to be a disparity between what the public claims to value and how it actually behaves. At a minimum, consumers may have misunderstood everything it would take to see fleet-wide fuel consumption decline. If they want to see higher MPGs, they’re going to have to make some sacrifices and the survey doesn’t allude to that fact.  Read More >

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