By on April 21, 2017

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-SportWagen-09
Oh my God, it’s finally almost over. After a 10-year conspiracy and almost 600,000 rigged diesel cars, VW’s legal battle with the United States is coming to an end. Volkswagen pled guilty last month to conspiracy to commit fraud and the obstruction of justice after it was caught cheating on emissions tests in 2015, and we’ve been eagerly waiting the verdict and subsequent punishment.

Today, a U.S. judge ordered the automaker to observe three years of probation and shell out a $2.8 billion criminal fine. The sum, which Steph Willems has informed me equates to 135,168 VW Golfs — after delivery and rounding up to the closest car — is in addition to the company’s $1.5 billion in civil penalties,  $4.7 billion in mandatory anti-pollution initiatives, and $11.2 billion diesel buyback program.  (Read More…)

By on April 9, 2017

longbeach imsa

This weekend, the Long Beach Grand Prix saw more than its fair share of misery. It all kicked off days before the actual race when two thieves stole roughly a million dollars worth of parts from Global Motorsports Group in Santa Ana. That’s bad news for the team because they needed a lot of those parts for their McLaren 570S GT4 and Porsche 911 GT3 R race cars. And it’s bad news for the thieves because those McLaren parts can only go into a handful of cars in the United States and are essentially valueless on the black market.

The two thieves were believed to have scouted the location while GMG held an open house, only to return with a stolen truck the following day and make off with their support coach — an essential for item for race day.  (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2017

enzo ferari

Italian investigators said on Tuesday that they had prevented a criminal plot to steal the body of automotive legend and Formula One racing pioneer Enzo Ferrari. The scheme involved using two cars and a van, breaking into San Cataldo cemetery, absconding with the corpse, and then holding it for ransom.

Just imagine the incredible movie that would have resulted from the heist had the police not immediately foiled the plan. It would have equal parts The Italian Job and Weekend at Bernie’s.

Così buono.  (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 17, 2017

VW logo

At some point, a scandal grows so big that investigations begin to overlap. When the scope widens even more, investigators suddenly begin investigating each other.

That’s the current situation in the Fatherland, where American law firm Jones Day recently had its offices raided at the request of German authorities in hot pursuit of executive skulduggery. Jones Day, of course, is the internal investigator hired by VW to probe the shady dealings that led to the diesel emissions scandal.

What started with unusual emissions readings at a West Virginia university now feels a lot like The Departed. (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 23, 2017

Design Center Audi. Picture courtesy Audi

There’s no end to the layers of intrigue swirling around the upper echelons of Audi.

Last week saw four engineers who worked on the company’s emissions-rigged diesel engines fired, with one of them, former engine development chief Ulrich Weiss, claiming in court that CEO Rupert Stadler was privy to the deception.

Audi fired back with a lawsuit threat against one or more individuals for “baseless accusations” and the revealing of internal documents. Now, the German publication Bild has released information on a potentially damning document that was reportedly locked away in Weiss’s safe since 2015 for exactly this purpose.

Weiss pulled out the document in a German labor court Tuesday to prove he’s the “pawn” his lawyer claims. (Read More…)

By on February 4, 2017

Front three-quarter view of 2017 Jaguar F-PACE in Aspen, Colorado, Image: © 2016 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

It wasn’t exactly the Great Train Robbery, but it was daring and ballsy nonetheless. And quite expensive for the victim — in this case, quintessential British automaker Jaguar Land Rover.

The company has egg on its face and no shortage of missing engines after thieves made off with a parked trailer full of high-end motors from the Solihull, UK assembly plant on Tuesday night. Two hours later, they returned for more. (Read More…)

By on February 1, 2017

2014 Audi A7 TDI (11 of 34)

Owners of certain Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche vehicles caught up in the diesel emissions scandal will receive hefty payouts, even if their vehicles aren’t bought back by the manufacturer.

Volkswagen and supplier Robert Bosch GmbH have agreed to a settlement worth a combined $1.55 billion, Reuters reports. The agreement covers about 80,000 vehicles outfitted with emissions-cheating 3.0-liter diesel V6 engines — 20,000 of which will return to the automaker for good.

While parting with a beloved luxury vehicle can be difficult, cold hard cash has a way of softening the emotional blow. (Read More…)

By on January 13, 2017

800px-wolfsburg_vw-werk

After a Volkswagen official was collared in Miami while on vacation, other top company officials have been warned to stay close to home.

Oliver Schmidt, who allegedly lied to environmental regulators to cover up VW’s emissions cheating, was arrested by FBI agents Saturday while returning home from a Cuban holiday. According to Reuters, Schmidt, one of six former or current VW managers indicted on multiple charges this week, could face up to 169 years in a U.S. prison if found guilty.

After the FBI’s lucky airport break, a new report suggests top brass in Wolfsburg are feeling penned in. Kiss that winter vacay goodbye. (Read More…)

By on January 11, 2017

Volkswagen TDI

The United States has now laid charges against six former or current Volkswagen officials for their role in the diesel emissions scandal.

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Michigan returned an indictment today, fingering the execs for playing key roles in a decade-long conspiracy to deceive the U.S. government and public. While five of the men live in Germany, one man — Oliver Schmidt, former head of VW’s regulatory compliance department — was nabbed by the FBI in a Miami airport on Saturday while attempting to return to Germany.

As the charges were handed down, the embattled automaker pleaded guilty to three criminal federal counts and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties. (Read More…)

By on January 6, 2017

lawsuit

The first person sentenced in the sprawling Volkswagen emissions scandal is headed to jail in South Korea, but the man who helped design the defeat smog-spewing engines will have to wait for his punishment.

Reuters reports an executive of VW’s South Korean division was handed a sentence of one year, six months today for his side-role in the diesel deception. Meanwhile, a German engineer who was the first employee charged in the scandal will cool his heels a little while longer.

It seems he’s just too useful. (Read More…)

By on January 5, 2017

kennedy_expressway_and_metra

There’s no shortage of ink spilled about the sky-high murder rate in Chicago, but the Windy City’s most overlooked crime scene isn’t a particular neighborhood or address. It’s the freeway.

In a year where Chicago homicides hit a 20-year high (762, up 57 percent from 2015), shootings on the city’s freeways topped all previous tallies. The city blames the increasing roadway bloodshed on rising gang violence, but the danger to motorists seems likely to rise if authorities can’t figure out a way to stamp out the problem. (Read More…)

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