Ex-Volkswagen CEO Learned of Emissions Cheating a Month Before Board, Report Claims

German media is reporting that former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who resigned shortly after the diesel emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, was informed about the company’s emissions cheating in late July of that year — a month before the automaker claims its executive board learned of the issue.

Several media outlets are reporting that a former senior VW quality officer told Winterkorn on July 27, 2015 that the company “cheated,” Reuters reports.

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'Fat, Dumb and Happy': Fourth Executive Charged as Feds Dish on UAW-FCA Conspiracy

Federal prosecutors charged a fourth player in the widening United Auto Workers-Fiat Chrysler Automobiles corruption scandal on Friday, providing a clearer picture of how the years-long conspiracy went down.

Virdell King, a former senior UAW official and the first black woman to head a UAW-FCA local, now faces the same charges as three others indicted in the $4.5 million money-funnelling scheme. King, who retired in 2016, served on the board of the scandal-plagued UAW-Chrysler National Training Center — a facility prosecutors claim acted as a money pit for the enrichment of FCA and UAW execs.

In a document filed in U.S. District court in Detroit yesterday, prosecutors allege former FCA vice president Alphons Iacobelli opened the cash taps to UAW brass in an attempt to bribe them into taking “company-friendly positions.” The training center’s funds, earmarked for autoworkers, served as the bank. NTC credit cards apparently made making the lavish purchases a breeze.

“If you see something you want, feel free to buy it,” Iacobelli said, according to the court filing.

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High-end Shotgun, Designer Purses Among the Latest Items ID'd in UAW-FCA Spending Scandal

On the surface, the UAW-Chrysler National Training center is a facility offering a helping hand to blue-collar workers looking to improve their employability. But the widening spending scandal involving former top brass at both the union and automaker has exposed a previously unknown use for the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles-funded NTC: a trough of cash at which to gorge oneself.

Two weeks after former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles financial analyst Jerome Durden, indicted for funnelling $4.5 million in training center funds to other execs, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, the scandal has spread to existing execs.

The Detroit News reports current United Auto Workers Vice President Norwood Jewell (seen above, on left) became the recipient of some of those funds in the form of a high-powered gift: a $2,180 shotgun.

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New York Dealership to Pay $298,000 After Scamming Customers With Phony VIN Etching

Like all companies, auto dealerships are in the business of making money and dealer-installed options are frequently a good way to markup a vehicle’s final price. While that’s great for shops, new cars don’t really need rustproofing or fabric protection. Of course, that doesn’t keep salesmen from occasionally tacking those services on for a few hundred dollars extra though.

One optional extra you actually may want to take advantage of is VIN etching. While this is something you can do at home for cheap, most dealers will gladly do it for a significantly larger fee. But it doesn’t do you any good if the store doesn’t actually follow through with the service and charges you for it anyway — which is exactly what happened at a Nissan dealership in New York.

Nissan of New Rochelle was caught charging customers for an unwanted VIN etching service that they frequently didn’t even apply to cars. Now the dealer has agreed to pay nearly 300 customers more than a quarter of a million dollars in restitution and issue a public apology for its shady practices.

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Takata Asks Court to Stall Airbag Victims' Lawsuits Against Automakers

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.

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Busted: Former FCA Analyst Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy

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.

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Former FCA Labor Chief and UAW Widow Charged in Union Corruption Conspiracy

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.

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Audi Manager Nabbed in Germany for Role in Diesel Conspiracy; U.S. Authorities Press Charges

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.

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China's Idiotic Elevated Bus Concept Turned Out to Be a Scam

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.

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Georgia Police Occasionally Placing Innocent People in Jail for 'Drugged Driving'

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.

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Go Ahead, Michiganders, Warm That Car Up*

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.

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Lawsuit Targeting Ford for Faulty Transmissions Powershifts Into High Gear

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.

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Class Action Lawsuit Targets Nasty Mercedes-Benz HVAC Systems

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.

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NHTSA Opens Investigation Into Hyundai's Theta II Engine Debris Recalls

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.

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Let's Try This Again: Fiat Chrysler Attempts to Certify 2017 Diesel Rams and Jeeps, Avoid Fines

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.

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  • Sayahh Story idea or car design competition: design a compact sedan, a midsize sedan, coupe and/or wagon specifically for people 6'4" through 7'2". Not an SUV nor a crossover nor a raised chassis like the US Toyota Crown or Subaru Outback.
  • Sayahh I only check map app only when absolutely necessary and only at a red light. An observation: lots of ppl leave 2 car lengths (or more) between themselves and the car ahead of theirs so that they can text or check the internet (because they are afraid they might roll forward and hit the car in front of them?) This drives me crazy because many ppl do it and 3 cars will take up almost 7 car lengths and ppl cannot get into the left turn lane when it's bordered by a cement "curb." Worse is when they aren't even using their phone and have both hands on the stewring wheel and waiting for the green light. Half a car length is enough, people. Even one car length is too much, but 3 or 4 car lengths? At 40 MPH, maybe, not at 0 MPH please.
  • 6-speed Pomodoro My phone never leaves my pocket while driving. This is fine in my daily with bluetooth and also fine in my classic car, but people get mad in a hurry that I'm ignoring them.
  • BklynPete Maverick has had recalls but overall seems reliable. Consumer Reports recommends it for whatever that's worth, buyers think they're better than sliced bread, they're sold out, and look like a long-term success.I suppose you're right that DCT can be laid at Mulally's feet too but as COO Fields was in charge of product. When he got Mulally's job, Fields brought back mgmt siloes and lost shareholder value. Maybe Fields took the fall for other's bad decisions. But ultimately as CEO the axe had to land on him. I cannot believe that Farley won't meet the same fate if 2023 warranty claims make Ford lose money again.
  • Inside Looking Out All that is BS. Nissan just tries to buy time. By 2028 every Tesla will have fusion reactor under the hood. Commercial fusion reactor is under development as we speak 5 miles away from my home in Sandia labs in Livermore.