Feds Announce Huge Catalytic Converter Theft Ring Bust

As if living through a pandemic and endless speculation that the United States is sliding away from democracy weren’t bad enough, some people decided that 2020 and 2021 were great times to start stealing catalytic converters at a record pace. The issue has been bad enough to make national news several times, but the Department of Justice just announced a major bust that could at least slow things down for a while.

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Department of Justice Launches Criminal Probe Into Tesla Self-Driving Claims

News broke Wednesday that Tesla was under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, regarding the company’s claims about the self-driving nature of its vehicles. The DOJ has been working on the investigation for some time, as it was launched in 2021 but was not disclosed at that time. Turns out it might be time for a government evaluation of whether “Full Self-Driving” Teslas are misleading.

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Nikola to Pay $125 Million to Settle Fraud Charges, Founder in Dutch

Nikola Corp. has agreed to pay $125 million to settle charges levied by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the company actively defrauded investors by providing misleading information about its technical prowess, production capabilities, and general prospects.

The settlement comes after a salvo of civil and criminal charges were launched against Nikola’s founder Trevor Milton, who got in trouble for convincing investors that the prospective automaker had fully functional prototypes boasting technologies other companies would have envied when that wasn’t actually the case. Milton was chided for using social media to promote false claims about the business, with his pleading not guilty to fraud charges brought up by the Department of Justice in July.

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Nikola Founder Continues Dumping Stock Following Criminal Indictment

Nikola Corp. founder, Trevor Milton, has been offloading stock ever since he was indicted for making misleading and/or blatantly false statements about the company. The formal charges were issued in July, piggybacking off a critically damning report from 2020 that alleged Nikola had grotesquely misrepresented its production capabilities and falsified a video where it showed an inoperable prototype vehicle working as if it was fully functional. The paper caught the attention of both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) — resulting in Milton stepping down as CEO and twelve months of investigative probes.

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EPA Introduces Stricter Vehicle Emission Rules

The Biden administration released updated proposals for the mileage and emission standards to be imposed on passenger vehicles sold inside the United States this week. To the great shock of nobody, they move the country away from the targets established by the Trump administration so the nation can be brought back toward stringent Obama-era goals those later changes sought to get away from.

Though it’s not quite a return to form and environmentalists have already accused the plan of being insufficient — a take that’s as easy to predict as a sunrise. The Environmental Protection Agency would be technically setting rules that put us a year or so behind targets instituted during the Obama administration. But that’s largely understandable when that regime didn’t spend the last four years inside the White House. Besides, the Biden administration’s EPA has already confirmed it’s pushing for even tougher restrictions after 2026.

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Nikola Deathwatch: DOJ Indicts Founder for Lying to Investors

The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted Nikola founder Trevor Milton over claims made to investors that could have been intentionally misleading. Though anybody tracking the story from the beginning already knows the corporate plot surrounding the company’s trucks has more holes than a deli platter comprised entirely of baby swiss.

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Stellantis Staffers Charged With Conspiracy to Cheat Emissions Tests, Defraud Customers

Federal prosecutors Tuesday unsealed new criminal charges that named several Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) officials accused of conspiring to cheat U.S. emissions tests and defraud customers buying their diesel-powered products. The indictment was opened in the Eastern District of Michigan, identifying FCA diesel senior manager Emanuele Palma (42) and two Italian nationals employed by FCA Italy SpA — Sergio Pasini (43) of Ferrera and Gianluca Sabbioni (55) of Sala Bolognese.

Palma had been charged previously and becomes a co-conspirator in the alleged plot to develop a 3.0-liter diesel engine used in FCA vehicles that could flummox emissions tests allowing the automaker to sell vehicles that did not adhere to government regulations. The motor started appearing inside engine bays in 2014, including popular models like the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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UAW Reaches Corruption Settlement With Justice Department

The U.S. Department of Justice has reached a proposed civil settlement with the United Auto Workers (UAW) in the gigantic corruption case that absorbed two former presidents and a slew of union officers over the last few years. With many involved already serving the first part of their prison sentence, the UAW has reportedly agreed to hold a referendum among the rank-and-file to change the way it elects the top brass. The proposal predictably includes some court oversight designed to catch any new instances of fraud coming from inside the union but doesn’t appear to address the corporate aspect.

As a positive, it’s not assumed that the union will see a complete government takeover. Like laundry, it’s already better to separate your alleged corruption to create legal buffer zones.

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Volkswagen's Dieselgate Concludes in the U.S.

Volkswagen Group appears to have completed the terms laid out by the U.S. Department of Justice after it decided the automaker required some oversight in the wake of the 2015 emissions fiasco (colloquially known as Dieselgate). VW was found guilty of equipping certain models with emissions-cheating software that would allow the car to run cleaner under testing conditions (passing regulations) and dirtier, with better performance, the rest of the time.

The con was brilliant and allowed VW to fool regulators for years until it all blew up in its face. Getting caught in the United States kicked off a chain reaction that cost the automaker a fortune globally. In May, VW estimated it had spent €31.3 billion ($34.40 billion USD) in fines and settlements and fines globally — adding that it expects to bleed another €4.1 billion through 2021. But the company was certainly happy to announce on Monday that it had adhered to settlement deal it reached with the Department of Justice and California’s Attorney General.

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Justice Department Subpoenas Automakers Over California Emissions Pact

The Justice Department has issued civil subpoenas to the four major automakers’ that voluntary agreed to adopt a Californian compromise on vehicle emission requirements. The antitrust investigation seeks to determine whether or not BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen were in violation of federal competition laws by agreeing with each other to adhere to stricter emissions standards penned by California.

With the Trump administration working for years to roll back emissions standards, California has been doing everything in its power to maintain its ability to self-regulate and gain support for higher emission standards. Under the agreement with the Golden State, the companies promised to meet annual emission improvement targets of 3.7 percent and defer to the state’s authority to set its own emissions standards.

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Senior Fiat Chrysler Manager Charged in EcoDiesel Affair

A senior manager who led the team of diesel engineers behind Fiat Chrysler’s maligned EcoDiesel V6 has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of conspiracy to mislead U.S. regulators and the public.

Following an investigation by the Department of Justice, Emanuele Palma, FCA’s senior manager of diesel driveability and emissions, faces multiple charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S., wire fraud, and violation of the Clean Air Act. He’s also accused of lying to the FBI and Environmental Protection Agency investigators.

All of this stems from the EPA-led outcry over auxiliary emissions control devices found on the company’s previous-generation 3.0-liter diesel truck engine.

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Billion-dollar Lawsuit Accuses Ford of Falsifying Pickup Fuel Economy

As if preordained to coincide with Ford’s announcement of its electric F-Series prototype, news of a class-action lawsuit accusing the automaker of falsified fuel economy tests surfaced last night. The suit, filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by Seattle law firm Hagens Berman, asks $1.2 billion in damages for customers it claims are overspending on fuel.

The legal action piggybacks on the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of Ford’s testing procedures for the 2019 Ford Ranger in April. However, the civil suit also ropes in the F-Series — claiming that customers could spend upwards of two grand in gas they never budgeted for.

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As Justice Department Launches Ford Probe, Automaker Surprises Investors

That headline was unavoidable, by the way. On the same day Ford Motor Company released a better than expected first-quarter earnings report, it also revealed the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into its emissions certification process — a probe that could see fuel economy ratings rolled back.

Wall Street seemed much more interested in the financial news, however, giving the company’s stock a much-needed lift. In the Glass House, Jim Hackett must be smiling.

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DOJ Possibly Investigating Hyundai/Kia Recall Activity

Prosecutors may be looking into a vehicle recall affecting certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles equipped with the company’s turbocharged 2.0-liter and naturally-aspirated 2.4 liter engines. It’s not an investigation to determine if a recall is needed; rather, it’s a look-see to find out if existing recalls were conducted correctly.

It remains to be seen in these early stages if any charges will be filed. If action is taken, however, the fines levied would likely cut deeply into the company’s balance sheet.

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FBI Now Probing Lofty Tesla Production Promises

Given that Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Twitter account now has third-party oversight, it’s unlikely we’ll see angry missives about the Fun-Busting Interrogators this weekend. However, that won’t stop the FBI from probing Musk’s past production promises for the Model 3 sedan.

As part of an ongoing Department of Justice investigation that kicked off after Musk’s fateful August 7th “funding secured” tweet, the FBI wants to know if the automaker misled investors via production promises that didn’t pan out.

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  • Lou_BC Another way to look at this is the upgrading of hardware and software. ...............The average length of car ownership is 10 - 12 years ....................The average lifetime ownership of a cell phone is 2.5 years. ................................................................... My phone will remain up to date, my vehicle won't. Especially if you buy a new "end of run" model.
  • TheEndlessEnigma "...we could be seeing a foundational shift in how Americans and car buyers see Stellantis products." yeah, I view Stellantis products as being off the cross-shop list. Stellantis is doing an excellent job of killing the Chrysler and Dodge brands and turning Jeep into something it isn't.
  • 2manyvettes 495 hp in a base C8 is more than enough. 800+ hp in a ZR1 is not worth the extra $60k (plus dealer markups). Unless the buyer is going for bragging rights. I remember when the C7 Grand Sport came out, and a reviewer got his hands on one and put it on the track at Lime Rock. His conclusion? Save yourself $15k and skip the Z06 and get a Grand Sport.
  • MaintenanceCosts Last year, I rented a closely related Audi A3. The overwhelming impression was of cheap build quality, although the drive wasn't bad. It had ~45,000 miles and the sunroof sunshade and passenger side power window were already not working correctly. Lots of rattles, too.
  • Lou_BC As others have pointed out, some "in car" apps aren't good or you pay for upgrades. My truck did not come with navigation. It was an expensive option. There's a lame GM maps app that you need to subscribe to "in-car" data. The map does not give you navigation other than to tell you where restaurants and gas stations are located. I'd want Android auto since I already pay for the phone.