In the midst of Uber Technologies’ corporate restructuring and cultivation of a squeaky-clean new image, the ride-hailing company was apparently hiding a dark secret. Striving for transparency, the company has now confessed that hackers stole the personal information of 57 million customers and drivers in October of 2016.
The coverup, apparently conducted by the firm’s chief security officer and another staff member, involved over $100,000 in payments to the hackers in the hopes to keep them quiet. The data lost included names, email addresses, and phone numbers of around 50 million Uber riders across the globe. Another 7 million drivers were also subjected to the digital attack, with over half a million of those losing their driver’s license numbers.
Curious as to whether Volkswagen’s management agreed to “excessive” payments of its chief labor representative, German prosecutors raided the carmaker’s headquarters. While a raid certainly sounds bad, it seems like the only way the country’s government bothers to acquire information from automotive manufacturers anymore.
This year alone, VW has been subjected to numerous raids relating to its diesel emission scandal and possible pricing collusion between BMW and Daimler. While one imagines a swarm of suits, backed by uniformed officers, as employees frantically shred documents, the frequency of such impromptu investigations probably just leaves staffers annoyed. I’m starting to think the German government likes showing up unannounced more than the country’s car builders enjoy illicit activities.
There’s renewed hope among electric car aficionados this morning. That’s because a tax plan unveiled by the U.S. Senate Thursday keeps the cherished (among some circles, anyway) EV tax credit alive, according to details released last night.
Should this part of the Senate’s tax reform proposal make it through to law, EV buyers could continue erasing $7,500 from the window sticker of their gas-free car.
General Motors doesn’t want it gone, highly indebted Tesla certainly doesn’t want it gone, but House and Senate Republicans would love to see the $7,500 EV tax credit die a quick death. In a sweeping tax proposal introduced last week, the credit’s nowhere to be seen.
The problem, according to many green car and auto industry proponents, is that the U.S. EV market would quickly join the tax credit in going belly-up. There’s a movement afoot to save the incentive (and the fledgling market along with it).
Assuming the credit goes the way of disco (and state-level incentives aside), electric cars would be forced to stand on their own environmental merit. It’s something free-market capitalists would love to see, but would it really spell doom for the segment? That depends on who you ask. But it might be helpful to take a look at where the segment stands right now.
On Monday, President Donald Trump requested that Japanese automakers consider assembling their vehicles in the United States. “Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. That’s not too much to ask,” Trump told Japanese auto executives during this week’s visit. “Is it rude to ask?”
While the internet response was to immediately scoff at how little Trump knew about the industry (Japanese companies have been building automobiles in North America for decades), the reality was far more nuanced.
Taken in the broader context, Trump actually said, “Several Japanese automobile industry firms have been really doing a job. And we love it when you build cars — if you’re a Japanese firm, we love it — try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that possible to ask? That’s not rude. Is that rude? I don’t think so.”
Nissan is resuming production at five of its domestic plants this Tuesday after Japan’s transport ministry finally approved changes to the improper final-inspection procedures that forced a major vehicle recall in October. The issue involved final checks being conducted by uncertified technicians, a procedure only mandated for vehicles sold within the brand’s home country of Japan. Exported vehicles aren’t subjected to it and, so far as we know, didn’t have any problems for having forgone the inspection.
However, JDM production has been suspended since October 19th and Nissan has scrambled to recall 1.2 million vehicles after being required to re-inspect everything built for the Japanese market over the last three years. That’s a large penalty for what amounts to little more than having the wrong guy eyeball a car as it rolls off the assembly line.
Although semi-retired from the automotive industry, Bob Lutz still has his fingers in a lot of pies and continues to provide insight into the vehicular world as he sees it through veteran eyes. I never miss an opportunity to read what he’s got to say about the industry because he provides unusually frank insight paired with borderline ludicrous sensationalism that’s too juicy to ignore.
That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, especially since one of his more recent claims about the financial inviability of Tesla Motors has started to seem particularly astute. But a lot of his premonitions haven’t had the time necessary to come to pass, leaving us to speculate if he’s an automotive sage or just an old crank. He routinely weighs in on the industry to offer entertaining doomsday scenarios — and his newest one is the bleakest yet.
It’s the last thing Elon Musk wants to hear and it’s likely not something General Motors will be too pleased about. Contained within the tax plan introduced by House Republicans Thursday is the elimination of a huge driver for electric vehicle sales — the $7,500 EV tax credit.
Automakers, and especially the two mentioned above, already stood to lose their credits in the near future (there’s a 200,000-vehicle-per-manufacturer cap), but the new tax bill would see the buyer incentive permanently removed, not renewed, as many had hoped. Such a move could slam the brakes on a still-fledgling segment in the U.S.
Following an earlier raid at BMW, Daimler AG and Volkswagen Group were also searched by antitrust officials from the European Union Commission and German government this week. Despite claiming whistleblower status, Daimler is still subject to investigation — though it’s less likely to incur the same financial penalties if the collusion charges go to court.
Over the summer, investigators from the EU stated there would be an investigation into several German carmakers after allegations surfaced that companies conspired to fix prices on various automotive technologies over several decades. But it wasn’t until Monday that officials searched Daimler’s corporate offices and collected documents from Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg and at Audi’s home base in Ingolstadt.
Nissan Motor Co. has recalled 1.2 million new vehicles it sold in Japan over the last three years after discovering vehicle checks were not being performed by certified technicians. After a lengthy internal investigation, the company stated it continued to conduct unaccredited final checks as recently as last week.
News of the discovery came on Wednesday, more than two weeks after Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa publicly stated only certified technicians had conducted checks since September 20th. Despite attempts to remedy the widespread issue at its Japanese factories, there were at least two technicians lacking the necessary training and credentials at its Shonan Plant located in Tsutsumicho, near Hiratsuka City.
As the fifth round of NAFTA talks come to a close, Mexico and Canada continue to reject the United States’ demands regarding automobiles, diary, dispute panels, government procurement and the sunset clause. Among the more recent automotive proposals kicking up dirt is the U.S.’s wish to include steel in NAFTA’s tracing list and increase the mandatory local content of every car built in North America. The attempt has annoyed foreign officials and left the industry fretting about increased production costs and complexity.
The increasingly tense nature of the talks has left many wondering if President Trump will make good on his earlier threat to leave NAFTA. However, plenty of analysts are of the mind that a deal will eventually be reached between the three countries.
While some of Europe saw modest auto sale gains through the first nine months of 2017, the region has mirrored North America’s decline in deliveries since the end of the summer. The United States saw eight consecutive months of declining sales this year, with a positive bump in September and better than expected volume in Canada.
Europe, meanwhile, saw the inverse. Passenger car registrations fell 2 percent year-over-year to roughly 1.43 million deliveries in September, despite August seeing a 5.6-percent improvement. Overall, 2017 has the makings of a unsatisfactory sales year for both regions. But Europe seemed to be doing alright before the U.K. suddenly stopped buying cars.
British registrations took a massive nosedive after Brexit. By September, it represented a monthly decline of 9.3 percent, compared to Germany’s 3.3 percent slide. Even though the rest of the continent saw a gain in sales, having Europe’s two largest markets lagging guaranteed the net loss.
Uber Technologies is about to be probed to a degree that would make even the most compliant alien abductee blush. The company is now looking at a minimum of five criminal investigations from the U.S. Justice Department regarding claims of bribes, illicit software usage, unfair marketing practices, corporate espionage, questionable pricing strategies, and theft of a competitor’s intellectual property.
The ride-hailing firm is also involved in dozens of lawsuits from from customers and employees — and one very public suit with autonomous research rival Waymo. But Uber’s skirting of the law was what made it so profitable to begin with. Its take-no-prisoners attitude may have been the thing that ultimately ousted founder and CEO Travis Kalanick and severely tarnished its corporate image, but it’s also an aspect that ensure its success. Still, nobody likes learning how the sausage is made and every look behind Uber’s curtain revealed another fresh horror the press couldn’t resist mentioning — including yours truly.
Last week, we discussed how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had some staffing gaps that needed shoring up. While it remains shy one administrative head, the White House saw fit to officially appoint a new deputy administrator — effectively replacing acting deputy administrator Jack Danielson’s interim leadership.
Danielson has served as the NHTSA’s executive director since 2015, but spent the last eight months filling in for an absent department figurehead. He’s being relieved by Heidi King, an economist with the federal government and experience in the private-sector.
The United States is still waiting on a glut of senior appointments within agencies that affect the automotive industry. While the Environmental Protection Agency eventually got Scott Pruitt, many high-ranking positions remain vacant at the EPA and other U.S. regulatory groups. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is still missing an administrator, chief counselor, director for government affairs, chief financial officer, and one enforcement chief.
With so many holes in its staff, former NHTSA officials and consumer advocacy groups are worried the agency has been rendered ineffective — essentially stalled on important decisions and issues that need the right kind of signature. Eight months is a long time to wait for an appointment and the NHTSA was only just given a deputy administrator, after former executive director Jack Danielson’s promotion.
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- FreedMike Smart idea. EVs are a far easier sell to someone who can charge them at home.
- Dwford This is just going to become part of selling EVs. Automakers need to make it as simple as possible to buy an EV. And the process of hiring an electrician etc is a barrier many people will not want to deal with.
- MaintenanceCosts So I'm not the only TTAC reader who follows LPL.His channel basically teaches you that with the right knowledge there are very few security products that can't be defeated in a short amount of time.
- Analoggrotto Musta spent that solution development money on that fancy styling department aye Posky?
- Fred I like racing, especially F1 and IMSA where Cadilac races or will. I just wonder if most buyers of that car really care? For me it's that they don't race their sedans like BMW, Acura and others do. Even then the IMSA program could be branded with any GM model and has. What their F1 drivetrain will be I don't know.