By on August 9, 2017

Takata-jpg

Takata, the airbag supplier whose cost-cutting measures ended up killing people, issued a request on Wednesday to suspend lawsuits against automakers filed by those injured by its faulty inflators.

Without the injunction, Takata claims the rampant litigation would prohibit management from completing the sale of the company’s viable operations to Key Safety Systems for $1.6 billion, threatening the supply of air bag inflators meant to replace already recalled ones (which may include all previously repaired units, pending an EPA investigation).

Obviously, the injured parties want restitution. Plaintiffs’ lawyers call the proposed injunction “an abuse of the bankruptcy laws for the benefit of all of the world’s largest automobile manufacturers.” The fear is that Takata’s request will delay consideration of numerous lawsuits for several months to a year, which is a long time to wait when you’ve been wronged.  (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 July 26, 2017

Chrysler HQ Auburn Hills

Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles labor relations chief Alphons Iacobelli and Monica Morgan, wife of late UAW Vice President General Holiefield, have been charged by a federal grand jury with violating the Labor Management Relations Act.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit, the pair were indicted on Wednesday for corruption after a lengthy joint investigation between the FBI and the IRS.

Iacobelli is accused of acting in the interest of FCA by issuing over $1.2 million in illegal payments and bribes to union members — including Morgan and Holiefield. The former union executive’s untimely death appears to have thrust his widow into the spotlight and saved him the trouble of a lengthy trial.

Morgan is best known for her work as a photographer in Detroit, and for being accidentally shot in the stomach by her husband while he was cleaning his Desert Eagle handgun in 2013. Iacobelli is primarily known for negotiating killer deals with the UAW and an abrupt, scandal-related, retirement in 2015.  (Read More…)

By on July 8, 2017

2014 audi a6 tdi engine

American investigators, hot on the trail of Volkswagen Group executives and managers with dirty hands, haven’t had the easiest time bringing suspected emissions scandal conspirators to trial. Germany doesn’t extradite citizens facing charges in other countries, making justice a tricky pursuit for U.S. authorities.

So far, only two players in the diesel deception find themselves in the arms of U.S. law enforcement— James Liang, a former executive who worked in California (and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges), and Oliver Schmidt, a former U.S. environmental liaison who previously worked out of VW’s Michigan emissions office. Federal agents nabbed him during a Miami layover as the German national returned home from a tropical vacation in January. Six others remain safely in Germany after a U.S. indictment.

Well, expect another trial now. Earlier this week, Munich police arrested an Italian national, Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, the former head of thermodynamics at Audi’s engine development division. It’s the first diesel-related arrest in Germany and Pamio’s citizenship means he’s a candidate for extradition to the United States.

Now charged in connection to the scandal, American authorities hope Pamio squeals on his bosses at Audi. As for his involvement, the federal government alleges Pamio and others decided a premium sound system was a better use of vehicle space than a proper emission control system. (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2017

teb-1 Chinese elevated bus

Beijing, like most major metropolitan areas, has a problem with traffic. For a time, Chinese officials thought they had been sent a solution to gridlock in the form of a futuristic-looking urban conveyance dubbed the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB-1).

While not technically a bus at all, the vehicle acts as more like a catamaran on rails, moving a few hundred people over traffic as a colossal trolley. The concept for the TEB has been in existence since the late 1960s, however, no country had ever bothered to build one before China — and for good reason. (Read More…)

By on July 5, 2017

squad car police

It’s estimated that roughly 28 people are killed every day as a result of drivers intoxicated on alcohol. In 2015, 10,265 people died in alcohol-related incidents, accounting for nearly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities within the United States. However, the Department of Transportation shows the number of deaths associated with drunk driving trending downward since 2007. Likewise, the number of annual self-reported alcohol-impaired driving episodes recorded by the CDC have diminished to record lows in that same timeframe — and so have arrests.

Law enforcement likely played an important role. Police departments take drunk driving seriously and decades of aggressive actions have made the risks involved less than appetizing to even those whose judgement is clouded by booze. But as alcohol-related arrests have plummeted, drug-related arrests have gone up.

While much of this can be attributed to drunk drivers who decided to double-down with marijuana, drugs are estimated to be a factor in 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes where alcohol isn’t present. This has resulted in some police departments implementing special task forces designated to identify and arrest “drugged drivers.” But there is a problem — officers in Georgia have been arresting innocent people.  (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2017

Car in a Driveway, Image: Bigstock.com

For many years the phrase “keep the car running” carried a fine in some Michigan locales if put into practice. At least, it once did.  As of Wednesday, the state of Michigan has made it legal to warm up your car in the driveway as you stare at it, coffee in hand, from the front window. Careful, though — local anti-idling laws might still apply.

A local law enacted to prevent vehicle theft was the reason behind a $128 ticket issued to Roseville resident Taylor Trupiano back in January. A police officer handed over the civil infraction notice after seeing Trupiano’s car, with keys in the ignition, engine running, and doors unlocked, sitting unattended in the driveway for an extended period of time. The owner claimed he was simply warming up his car for his girlfriend and two-year-old son.

Eventually, the matter ended up in court. While Trupiano eventually lost his case — he was unable to prove that his driveway wasn’t easily accessible to the public — state lawmakers took notice. (Read More…)

By on May 31, 2017

2015-Ford-Focus

Ford’s dual-clutch PowerShift transmission has made the Blue Oval a number of enemies over the past several years. Now, nearly 7,000 U.S. Ford owners are looking for a pound of flesh.

A lawsuit filed against the automaker is seeking compensation for individual damages claimed by the plaintiffs, all of whom own a 2012-2016 Ford Focus or 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta. The suit, which is just the latest of many, contains a familiar complaint about Ford’s small-car tranny. Basically, that it’s awful, and not even an exorcist can free it from its demons. (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2017

Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse Limousine (W 213) 2016Mercedes-Benz E-Cl

A lawsuit filed by two Georgia Mercedes-Benz owners accuses the automaker of failing to rectify a long-standing HVAC problem and stiffing customers with the bill.

Sunil Amin and Trushar Patel claim the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in numerous models dating to the turn of the century are inherently faulty and want Mercedes-Benz and its parent, Daimler AG, to pay damages. They also want the suit to grow into a class action.

The plaintiffs say the issue started a noxious odor emitted from the vehicles’ vents and, despite attempts to have the issue fixed, nothing the automaker has done has made a difference. (Read More…)

By on May 20, 2017

2014 Hyundai Sonata

The timeliness of a recall of Hyundai and Kia vehicles equipped with Theta II four-cylinder engines is the focus of a formal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation revealed today.

Metal engine debris resulting from a faulty production process is behind the expansive recall of nearly 1.7 million vehicles, but the NHTSA wants to know if the recall expanded too slowly. Just how much Hyundai knew about the widespread issue is a big question mark, made all the more pressing by the testimony of a company whistleblower. (Read More…)

By on May 19, 2017

2017 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel

After being forbidden from selling 2017 Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee models equipped with the 3.0-liter diesel V6, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is hoping for a little love from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA suspended the certification process in January after discovering eight undeclared auxiliary emissions control devices on the EcoDiesel models. The existence of the software, installed in those vehicles since the 2014 model year, earned FCA a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act. Since then, the automaker has attempted to work with environmental regulators to smooth over the controversy, even as its mailbox filled with subpoenas from federal and state authorities.

Yesterday, we learned the Justice Department was readying a lawsuit against FCA. With the potential for billions of dollars in fines staring it in the face, FCA has whipped up a new application in the hopes of placating the EPA and selling some light-duty diesels. (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 10, 2017

Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse Limousine (W 213) 2016Mercedes-Benz E-Cl

Fans of German compression-ignition engines had best dig out those old, glossy posters of an olive green 300D, as they’re going to need it.

Daimler announced it will not sell 2017 diesel Mercedes-Benz models in the U.S. as rumors swirl that the automaker might give up on the segment altogether.

The problem lies in regulatory approval, which Daimler has struggled — and failed — to obtain. Following the Volkswagen diesel scandal, the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board began going over diesel emissions with a fine-toothed comb. The four diesels Mercedes-Benz had hoped to sell in the U.S. this year became trapped in a bottleneck last fall.

After killing off the C300d’s prospects for good, the automaker then sought approval for just one model — the GLS350d. No dice. Investigations on both sides of the Atlantic could now cap the company’s 57-year diesel history in the U.S. (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…)

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