The United States Federal Trade Commission has launched an investigation into whether car dealers colluded against the online car shopping site, TrueCar, over price competition the site encouraged. A number of car dealers, including the Kelly Automotive Group in the Boston area, received letters from the FTC saying that the agency is looking into whether companies in the “retail automobile industry” committed anticompetitive acts “by agreeing to refuse to deal with TrueCar” during 2001 and 2012.
Category: Law and Order
Wired.com is reporting that the state of California has abruptly tabled legislation that might have allowed RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips to be embedded into the state’s drivers’ licenses. Privacy activists are hailing the suspension of this plan as a victory against government intrusion in people’s lives and believe that these chips, which are actually tiny radio transceivers that can be accessed over the open airwaves without the consent of the person carrying the document, will eventually be used to track people’s movements without their knowledge. Currently, three states, Michigan, Vermont and Washington, already have RFID chips in their licenses and are already sharing information collected by the DMV, including basic identity data and photos, with the Department of Homeland Security via a national database. Scary, right? Read More >
While Americans have an image of Europe as the place of autobahns with unlimited speeds, if a new proposal by the European Commission’s Mobility and Transport Department is approved, all cars on the continent could be fitted with devices that limit top speed to 70 miles per hour. Cars would possibly be equipped with cameras that would read speed limit signs on roads and apply the brakes if the legal limit is exceeded. The goal is to reduce the 30,000 annual traffic deaths in Europe by a third. The regulations would not just apply to new cars sold in Europe. Used cars would have to be retrofitted. Read More >
After losing a motion to prevent him from appearing, Toyota Motor Corporation’s CEO for North America, Jim Lentz took the witness stand in a lawsuit filed by the survivors of a woman who was killed when her Camry allegedly sped out of control and hit a tree after it was hit by another car, whose driver is a co-defendant in the case. One issue in the court case is why Toyota did not equip Noriko Uno’s car with a brake override system that automatically closes the throttle when the brakes are applied.
Tesla Motors faces trademark issues in the United States and China as it tries to expand its lineup of cars and countries where it is sold. According applications found at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s web site, on August 5th, Tesla filed three trademark applications for use of the name “Model E” in three categories, “automobiles and structural parts therefore,” automobile maintenance and repair services, and apparel. With merchandise sales being an important part of car marketing today, additional filings to cover apparel and similar logoed items are standard practice. Last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk hinted at a Model E in an interview with Jalopnik, “There will definitely be more models after the S and X. Maybe an E :).”
As police departments across the United States start retiring their Ford Crown Victoria P71 Police Interceptors, now that those out of production vehicles are reaching departments’ mileage limits, it looks like they are replacing at least some of them with SUVs, not sedans. Though the end of the Crown Vic has been mourned by law enforcement officers and car enthusiasts alike, both groups looked forward to the new police package sedans being offered by the domestic automakers. Ford brought out the SHO Taurus based Police Interceptor sedan to replace the Crown Victoria, General Motors is importing a police only Caprice PPV with rear wheel drive from Australia (while continuing to offer a police package for the FWD Impala) and Chrysler sells pursuit Chargers. Police department purchasing officials, though, are apparently opting to buy SUVs instead of the new cop cars. Read More >
The first wrongful death lawsuit concerning the sudden acceleration of Toyota cars to go to trial has started with opening arguments. The lawyer for Noriko Uno’s family said that Toyota knew that their gas pedals could get stuck and that the company was liable for her death because Uno’s 2006 Camry did not have a brake override system. The Toyota that Uno, 66 at the time of her death, was hit by a car that ran a stop sign. Her Toyota subsequently accelerated down the wrong side of the road for 30 seconds before hitting a tree, causing her death. Read More >
GM tabbed the automaker’s head transmission engineer to be interim chief of the firm’s global powertrain operations while the company conducts a search for a permanent replacement for Sam Winegarden, who was fired in the wake of an emissions testing scandal in India.
Jim Lanzon, 62, is currently vice president of GM, global transmissions, a position he’s held for 11 years and had an important role in negotiating the recently announced agreement between GM and Ford Motor Co. over jointly developing new 9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions. Like Winegarden, Lanzon has been a longtime GM employee. Read More >
Automotive News is reporting that Sam Winegarden, GM’s vice president for global engine engineering, the company’s highest ranking powertrain executive, was fired this week along with about 10 other GM Powertrain employees in the U.S. and India, over cheating in GM’s emissions testing at its Indian subsidiary.
The regulatory and verbal war between France and Germany over Mercedes-Benz’s refusal to switch to the R1234yf air conditioning refrigerant has escalated. After a French court ordered a 10 day stay, lifting that country’s ban on R134a equpped A Class, B Class, CLA and SL cars made since June, Daimler expressed confidence that the French government would abide by that ruling. That confidence was apparently badly placed because the French government has now invoked a “safeguard procedure” of the EU that allows member countries to act unilaterally to avoid a serious risk involving the environment, public health or traffic safety, reinstituing the ban. Daimler promised that it would continue fighting to allow the sale of those cars in France. It claims that the new refrigerant is dangerously flammable and toxic. Read More >
Malcolm Bricklin’s company, V Cars (formerly Visionary Vehicles), was awarded $2 million by a Detroit jury in U.S. District court. The lawsuit was filed after Bricklin’s failed effort to set up a joint venture with Chery to produce Chinese made cars for the North American market. The jury ruled that KCA Engineering, a company founded by former Visionary executive Dennis Gore while he was still an employee of Bricklin’s startup, had committed fraud as well as a number of other misdeeds. When Gore was first hired by Visionary, Bricklin said it was because of his expertise with Asian car manufacturers.
Noriko Uno was killed in 2009 when her 2006 Toyota Camry sudenly accelerated to 100 MPH, resulting in her leaving the roadway and hitting a telephone pole and a tree in the median. Today, jury selection begins in a California lawsuit filed by her survivors.
Last week, the European Union Commission’s Technical Committee on Motor Vehicles meeting affirmed France’s refusal to allow Mercedes-Benz to sell cars using R134a refrigerant, and alsom indicated that other EU countries may block the sale of those cars as well. Now, Honeywell International, which owns the rights to R1234yf, (the only refrigerant currently approved by the EU) said that Daimler’s concerns are unfounded. M-B had run tests showing that under certain circumstances, leaks in the air conditioning system could cause underhood fires, and that when it burns, R1234yf produces poisonous hydrogen flouride gas.
A U.S. District Court judge gave final approval of the settlement of a lawsuit filed against Toyota on behalf of owners of Toyota vehicles who claimed that the car maker’s recalls related to unintended acceleration caused their cars to depreciate in value.
TTAC has recently addressed the issue of police using scanning technology to read license plates and then store their street locations. When the story broke, it centered on a few counties in Northern California, but the American Civil Liberties Union has just released documents that show that the practice is widespread across the United States and that few of the police agencies or private companies that are scanning license plates and storing that data, making it possible to retroactively track drivers, have any meaningful rules in place to protect drivers’ privacy. There are few controls on how the collected data is accessed and used. The documents reveal that many police departments keep the information on millions of people’s locations for years, or even indefinitely, whether or not they are suspected of a crime. Data on tens of millions of drivers is being logged and stored.