Last month, Bertel reported on a Wall Street Journal story that revealed that BMW USA officials inflated sales figures in their zeal to overtake rival Mercedes-Benz in US sales. The automaker was offering dealers cash to basically sell the cars to themselves, under the guise of the units being used as customer demonstrators. The WSJ piece was met with laughter in the halls of car companies, as the practice is common to most automakers. The hilarity has officially ended: a former American Suzuki sales rep was just indicted for wire fraud for conspiring with a dealer to inflate sales figures. (Read More…)
A gentleman named Louis Bird is suing Hyundai because his 2011 Elantra isn’t getting the claimed 40 mpg that Hyundai’s ads apparently tout. Bird is being supported by a group called Consumer Watchdog, and if that rings a bell, maybe it’s because TTAC has dealt with them a few times in the past regarding Hyundai.
nutty pseudo-utopian autonomous car project faced a reality check at a legal symposium sponsored by the Law Review and High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. Among the challenges raised were the prospect of insuring such a car, and whether the car would be able to stop for law enforcement or construction workers.
So when I get my next big check I’m getting me a Panther. On this you can depend. You’ve talked me into it! But that’s not the point of my email. Rather, I’ve seen these HID light kits and wonder if it’s a lot of hype or if there is some veracity to the upgrade?
When private, for-profit firms ask for public money, taxpayers tend to take a more personal interest in their goings-on. After all, they are, in a very real sense, still the partial owners of these companies, and they put up the cash to provide a second chance to companies that offer no similar reciprocation when consumers default on their own car loans. And though US taxpayers have earned the right to feel a sense of ownership towards GM and Chrysler, there are several groups of Americans who have shouldered a disproportionate amount of the burden of the bailout. First, the GM and Chrysler employees who were laid off despite the bailout must doubtless wonder why they had to both fund the bailout and lose their jobs (remember, cutting jobs was the most “positive” aspect of the bailout, according to the industry). Similarly, GM and Chrysler’s bondholders paid twice to “save” their failed investments, once with their tax money and again by taking a hefty cramdown. And finally, a third group paid far more than anyone else, not only funding the bailout with with their taxes, but also sacrificing compensation for injuries caused by GM and Chrysler vehicles. The WSJ [sub] reports
Among the creditors who suffered most, car-accident victims represent a distinct mold. Unlike banks and bondholders, this group didn’t choose to extend credit to the auto makers. As consumers, they became creditors only after suffering injuries in vehicles they purchased.
“This was not a normal case. The government was deciding who was going to be taken care of and who was not,” said David Skeel, a University of Pennsylvania law school professor and bankruptcy expert who has testified before Congress on the auto bailouts. Even if the auto makers had legal rights to leave behind product-liability claims, “there is a deep unfairness,” he said. “It would have been easy enough to set something aside for them.”
Given the celebratory, even triumphalist, rhetoric that’s being applied to the auto bailout after the fact, it’s important to remember that many suffered in order to give GM and Chrysler a second chance. Even those who are proud of the bailout’s accomplishment should acknowledge that the jobs saved carried a price that goes beyond any final accounting of anonymous billions lost from the federal budget. The pro-bailout crowd should take more care to recognize and heal the deep wounds that fester beneath their “Mission Accomplished” rhetoric… if only to prevent a repeat of these tragic decisions in the event of future industry rescues.
Should you be afraid of towing in a new Ford Explorer? Though the newly-unibody Explorer is rated for up to 5,000 pounds, Jack Baruth noted in his review that
My experience pulling my race car on an open trailer with my Flex indicates that the D4 chassis is more than up to the job, but that the transmission just feels delicate. Serious towing with a sideways gearbox frightens me, and it should frighten you, too.
And though you might well share Jack’s nervousness about towing in a new Explorer, the law of the land says it’s safe pulling up to 5,000 pounds. Even so, Consumer Reports found out the hard way that not everyone believes in the Explorer as a safe, effective towing machine. Namely the equipment rental company U-Haul appears to have some kind of problem with the Explorer, as CR’s Eric Evarts explains
I called U-Haul to see about renting their largest, 6×12-foot open trailer to drag the mulch home. “Come on down! $29.95 for the day,” the friendly attendant said.
Eager to finish that day and save $18 by delivering the mulch myself, I trundled off to the local U-Haul lot. As the workers started to fill out the paperwork inside, their faces went ashen the second I said, “Explorer.”
“Sorry, we won’t let any equipment out behind an Explorer,” they said, and began putting away their pencils.
A lawsuit against Mazda is moving to the United States Supreme Court, reports Bloomberg, challenging whether automakers should have been required to install shoulder belts in all of its seats prior to current regulations requiring the improved belting systems took effect in 2007. The case centers on a 2002 accident in which Than Williams was killed when a Jeep Wrangler hit her family’s 1993 Mazda MPV. The Williams MPV had only lap belts because shoulder belts weren’t required by federal law until 2007. A California court has already barred the lawsuit from coming forward, arguing that federal regulations supersede any local rulings, and that then-legal seatbelts should protect manufacturers from personal injury liability. However a recent case casts some doubt on the precedents in the Mazda case…
In the second bit of bad news for Toyota to break today, Corporate Counsel reports that former Toyota lawyer Dimitrios Biller has been cleared by an arbitrator to present evidence that Toyota claimed was protected by attorney-client privilege. That evidence reportedly proves that Toyota concealed safety information, although its value has been hotly debated. The evidence will be presented in Biller’s civil RICO suit against Toyota now that the arbitrator in that case has ruled that hey are not protected by attorney-client privilege. Biller tells CC
Attorney-client privileged information almost never gets to the finder of fact to determine the merits of the case. I am halfway there. The burden is now on Toyota to prove me wrong
But for full context, a retired federal judge clarifies that
The Arbitrator does not rule that a crime or a fraud has taken place. The ruling is simply that a prima facia showing has been made, so otherwise-privileged materials may be used in discovery and arbitration.
Tomorrow the Senate will be taking its shot at the Toyota scandal, with hearings scheduled before the Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation. Giving testimony will be three Toyota executives including Yoshimi Inaba, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and Clarence Ditlow of the Ralph Nader-founded Center for Auto Safety. Conspicuously absent from the list is Dimitrios Biller, the former Toyota lawyer who claims that Toyota hid documents related to vehicle design from discovery in several suits against the automaker. The House Oversight Committee has reviewed a number of Toyota communications courtesy of Biller, and a letter from chairman Ed Towns (D-NY) demands that Toyota answer Biller’s charges [Towns' letter and Biller documents in PDF format here, courtesy of DetNews]. By invoking Biller’s charges, Towns has dragged yet another witness into the fray whose story raises more questions than it answers [one of Biller's several suits against Toyota can be found here.] And yet, probably because of his complex backstory] there are no plans for Biller to testify under oath before congress. Should he, or does his testimony just cloud the picture even further?
Compared to the tens of billions of dollars in lost taxpayer investments in GM and Chrysler, the lawyer bills for the twin bankruptcies are relatively inexpensive. The Freep reports that legal and consulting fees have already exceeded $120m, with another $3m pending for September and October, and more to come. According to court records, Chrysler’s chief financial advisors during its bankruptcy, Capstone Advisory Group, has received $17m in taxpayer money, with some $10m going directly to the firm’s Executive Director Robert Manzo. Chrysler’s lead counsel, Day Jones, received $40m through last August, and estimates place the firm’s eventual tab to total somewhere around $115m. GM’s bankruptcy advisors AlixPartners and Evercore Partners received $26m and $13m respectively, while its head lawyers, Weil, Gotshal & Manges received nearly $72m. And with the liquidations of Old GM and Chrysler far from over, the legal bills will continue to mount, likely past 2010.