Category: Government

By on April 20, 2017

General Motors HQ

If your news diet occasionally strays outside of the automotive realm, then you know that Venezuela is going through a “transitional phase.” The country’s economy is experiencing uncontrollable inflation, unemployment is around 25 percent, food is scarce, and public health services have become nonexistent. There is also more political turmoil than any single country could possibly handle. Venezuela’s capital of Caracas is now a hotbed of increasingly violent protests, as critics of President Nicolas Maduro are met with heavily armed security forces.

The opposition blames Maduro and the Supreme Court for turning the country in to a dictatorship after dissolving the National Assembly’s ability to govern. There are also claims that the leftist government is overstepping its bounds when it comes to property rights.

While you wouldn’t expect an automaker to weigh in on the matter, General Motors is accusing Venezuelan authorities of the illegal seizure of a plant in the industrial center of Valencia and has vowed to “take all legal actions” necessary to defend its rights. It’s also ceasing operations within the country.  Read More >

By on April 7, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

So far, there’s no evidence the Trump administration plans to extend the federal tax credit incentive for the purchase of electric and plug-in vehicles.

Designed to kick-start the fledgling technology, the credits — totaling up to $7,500 per vehicle — will run out after automakers finish selling their first 200,000 eligible vehicles — a date that could occur as early as next year for some companies. This means a segment still as embryonic as the infrastructure meant to serve it could soon bite the dust.

A recent report from Edmunds predicts what will happen if the credits die, using a cancelled state credit as a crystal ball. Despite the hype around EVs, those incentives are an intravenous bag keeping the patient alive. Read More >

By on April 5, 2017

white house on moving day
The Trump administration’s current plan for the Environmental Protection Agency budget removes nearly all funding for vehicle emissions testing. Proposed cuts to the EPA’s budget would eliminate 99 percent of the agency’s $48 million in funding for vehicle testing, shouldering automakers with increased fees to split the difference.

However, former head of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality Margo Oge is claiming that such a large cut would force the agency into “pretty much shutting down the testing lab” regardless of corporate contributions.  Read More >

By on March 31, 2017

Donald Trump

The Trump administration is changing its tune regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Despite the president calling the pact the “worst deal” in history throughout his campaign and hinting his goal was to abandon the agreement, the White House intends to keep numerous provisions while seeking more moderate changes.

Among the more controversial arrangements Trump intends to keep are the arbitration panels that permit investors in the three nations to circumvent local courts to resolve civil claims. The administration even has a proposal that would improve these bodies’ procedures to resolve disputes.

Is this the bold trade overhaul that Trump promised on the campaign trail? Read More >

By on March 30, 2017

2015 Volkswagen Golf family, Image: Volkswagen of America

If you’ve felt left out of the Volkswagen diesel affair until now, chin up. You’ll soon be able to purchase your very own piece of automotive scandal history.

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved the sale of 2015 Volkswagen Group vehicles equipped with Generation 3 2.0-liter diesel engines, making this the first time any of the half-million-plus sidelined vehicles have been legally available to customers since the scandal began.

The contrarian’s list of unlikely daily drivers just grew a bit longer. Read More >

By on March 28, 2017

supreme-court

A Supreme Court ruling between two food companies may benefit the Detroit Three and its many domestic suppliers.

The case of TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands focused on where plaintiffs in an intellectual property or patent infringement dispute can file a lawsuit. Current U.S. law dictates that the plaintiff may file a patent infringement suit in any court district where the defendant does business. This has saturated the Eastern District of Texas with countless patent and I.P. lawsuits. Plaintiffs prefer the region because rural Texas juries are more likely to rule against big businesses and the district is known for expediting proceedings.

According to a January study by the Stanford Technology Law Review, only about 15 percent of cases heard in the court actually involved a patent invented within the district or had an accused party that had an office in the area. However, the Supreme Court is expected to put the kibosh on the practice by forcing plaintiffs to try cases near the defendant’s headquarters — meaning domestic automakers could have the home field advantage in future legal proceedings.  Read More >

By on March 27, 2017

pumping fuel

California has green-lit light-vehicle pollution targets that the Trump administration has placed under review. As expected, the Golden State is going to continue playing hardball over Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Already critical of the automotive industry for asking the president to reconsider federal guidelines through 2025, the California Air Resources Board hinted that it wouldn’t stray from the emission targets set by the Obama administration in 2012. On Friday, CARB finalized its state emissions rules while setting an updated ordinance on zero-emission vehicles. “We’re going to press on,” said Mary Nichols, head of the board, during last week’s press conference.  Read More >

By on March 23, 2017

08C114_029

In a developing story, the Stuttgart prosecutors’ office has launched an investigation into employees of Daimler, parent company and manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC engines. At issue is the (lately) very common Germanic malady of diesel infidelity.

Read More >

By on March 23, 2017

pumping fuel

An economic assessment conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that, due to recent improvements in technology, the Environmental Protection Agency’s rationale for its 2025 fuel efficiency standards may have overestimated the cost for automakers to comply. The ICCT’s study shows average per-car investments 34 to 40 percent lower than the previous EPA appraisal.

While this information, had it come out sooner, may not have kept automotive executives from bending the president’s ear to reevaluate EPA guidelines, it certainly reframes their reasons for doing so. The ICCT, famous for turning researchers loose on Volkswagen diesels, makes a good case that manufacturers have the tools to meet current standards without spending a lot of money.  Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

U.S. Mexico Border

Now that Mexican negotiators aren’t reacting specifically to President Trump’s heated rhetoric over foreign trade policies, their terror and rage has begun to subside. The North American Free Trade Agreement might even continue to exist for the time being.

Trump’s previous attacks on NAFTA, import tariff threats, and promise of a border wall incensed Mexican officials to a point where many suggested Mexico should simply abandon the renegotiation talks on principle. However, now that cabinet officials will be speaking on behalf of the president and the focus of the negotiators have shifted toward the fundamentals — and not the politics — Mexico can relax a little.  Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

Faraday Future FF 91 rear

Faraday Future is more of an automotive marketing company than it is an automaker. The company has been making unsubstantiated promises and ignoring its fiscal woes without giving much assurance that it will ever bring a production car — or assembly plant — into the real world. Problems have continued to mount and, like any deeply rooted zit, the situation is gradually coming to a head.

This month, Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz demanded that the Governor’s Office of Economic Development conduct an audit of Faraday — throwing in Tesla for good measure. Schwartz has been critical of FF ever since it received government money to help build its factory, only to see work on the facility stalled due to nonpayment last fall. Faraday has since scaled back its construction plans, claiming that it was necessary to ensure production begins on schedule.

Now, FF’s primary backer, LeEco, is selling a 49-acre Silicon Valley property less than a year after purchasing it from Yahoo Inc. This comes after the company’s founder and CEO, Jia Yueting, explained to employees in November that LeEco was facing devastating financial issues stemming from its uncontrolled expansion. Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

Fisker Karms (Image: David Villarreal/Flickr)

Automakers would have to fund a larger share of future green technology projects if the Trump White House’s budget blueprint passes as written.

The administration proposes to do away with a little-used — and sometimes controversial — U.S. Energy Department loan program, as well as a grant program dedicated to spurring advanced fuel-saving technologies. Read More >

By on March 16, 2017

Donald Trump

Donald Trump said Wednesday his administration will reopen a review of the current auto emissions directives passed in the final throes of the Obama presidency. This is cause for celebration for automakers, who’ve practically begged the president to repeal the mandates on grounds that the goals are far too uncompromising and ill-suited for the present-day market.

Speaking at the American Center for Mobility, President Trump promised to bring more manufacturing back into the United States and continue to bring down regulatory barriers so that automakers can continue to thrive.

“We’re going to work on the CAFE standards so you can make cars in America again,” Trump said. “There is no more beautiful sight than an American-made car.”

Clearly, the president has either never seen an Aston Martin or is trying to make a point about the importance of domestic product.  Read More >

By on March 13, 2017

Donald Trump

President Trump is prepared to make a formal announcement on the review of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that were locked in at the tail end of the Obama administration. Sources have confirmed that he’ll be meeting with automotive CEOs in Michigan this week to discuss the the situation after listening to them repeatedly beg him to repeal the current guidelines.

The president plans to visit an autonomous vehicle testing facility outside of Detroit on Wednesday before meeting with the automotive heads representing the Detroit Three. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday that the trip is centered around “job creation and automobile manufacturing … highlighting the need to eliminate burdensome regulations that needlessly hinder meaningful job growth.” Read More >

By on March 9, 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

The Office of the Inspector General is preparing to conduct preliminary research to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal controls are effective at detecting and preventing emissions fraud.

While the EPA has proven itself capable of stopping cheaters in the past, the federal oversight group wants to check in on the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Office of Transportation and Air Quality in Washington D.C.

This investigation comes amid the current administration’s proposal of a 25 percent reduction in the EPA’s $8 billion budget, the elimination of almost 3,000 jobs, and the suspension of agency-backed programs and departments — including the environmental justice office. Automakers are also begging President Trump to rollback emissions standards after 2016 ended up being the first year since 2004 that U.S. light vehicles did not exceeded the industry-wide fuel economy targets. Regardless of intent, any appraisal of the EPA’s ability to act effectively will either serve to validate its existence or help rationalize its dismantlement.  Read More >

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