Missouri: Lawsuit Challenges Red Light Camera Legality, Astroturf

Lawyers for motorists in Missouri are looking to capitalize on recent discoveries regarding deceptive marketing campaigns orchestrated by red light camera companies. On Wednesday, The Simon Law Firm filed a class action lawsuit against American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and the city of Hazelwood seeking refunds for thousands of photo enforcement tickets issued without the sanction of state law.

“In bringing this class action, plaintiffs seek to expose what they and other Missouri citizens believe is an unscrupulous business venture between an out-of-state for-profit corporation and a municipal government seeking to fill city coffers,” attorneys Ryan A. Keane and John E. Campbell wrote.

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Automobile Magazine And The New Pimpatorialism

Once upon a time, this stuff was easy. When Jean Jennings needed a little extra pocket change all she had to do was… make an ad. Like this one, for the Silverado. Or this one, for Jeep (which I swear was still visible less than a year ago). Nowadays, however, you’ve got to be a little more careful about how you go about lending your “editorial credibility” to one of the brands you’re supposed to be covering rather than shilling for. So instead of the straight-up “Hi, I’m Jean Jennings, Editor-in-Chief of Automobile Magazine, and here’s why I love Chevy’s Silverado” pimpatorial of the past, you’ve got to layer on the irony, load up on non-car-related distractions (I’ve got it… a puppet!) and generally avoid the personal testimonial format as much as possible.

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"Show Me Your Tatras": An Argument For Automotive Preservation

The question of automotive preservation jogged an unblogged memory loose today, from earlier in this chaotic summer when I was in Wolfsburg, Germany. I was touring the Zeithaus, or “House of Time,” in Volkswagen’s sprawling Autostadt, taking in the remarkably well-curated exhibit of some of the most influential and important cars of all time. Unlike the GM Heritage Center, for example, the Zeithaus is not reserved for VWs alone, but includes fine examples of undeniably iconic cars from various marques. Organizing VW’s official museum in this way gives the brand a sense of sophistication, sending the message that VW knows quality even when it’s not the one producing it. And the Zeithaus’s curators use this well, offering up such flattering (if ultimately apt) comparisons as an Audi A2 poised alongside a Citroen DS.

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Wonders Loom: The Greening Of NASCAR

The rot-gut whiskey powered good ol’ boys who turned their fleet flite from revenooers into stock car racing must be flipping their ‘40 Fords in their graves. Nah, on second thought, they’d be so proud that their Prohibition-defying race car culture has swept the nation they’d be bemused by the news. Nascar is going effete… uh, green.

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The Sound And The Fury: Marchionne Letter Stirs Up Tensions, But Talks Continue

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s petulant letter to UAW President Bob King sounded to me like a man angry with being kept waiting after a long flight, but according to the Detroit News, it has “derailed” the “carefully crafted timeline” for contract negotiations. To wit:

Sources close to the negotiations told The Detroit News that a deal was imminent with General Motors Co. when Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sat down at his Mac computer and fired off a sharply worded letter to UAW President Bob King at 10 p.m. Wednesday, accusing the union leader of violating their gentlemen’s agreement to sign off on a deal by the 11:59 p.m. deadline.

Shortly after the letter was sent, talks stopped at both companies.

Chrysler and the UAW agreed to extend their current contract for one week. Talks resumed Thursday between the two sides, but nothing of substance is being discussed at the bargaining table, according to people familiar with the talks.

Actually, that’s not exactly what everyone is reporting…

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Terry McAuliffe Fires Back At Automotive News

Just as Automotive News [sub] failed to cite Bertel’s ahead-of-the-game reporting on Terry Mcauliffe’s GreenTech Automotive firm as the inspiration for its coverage, McAuliffe himself has decided to ignore TTAC’s leadership in order to lash out at the leading industry paper’s write-up on his highly suspect venture. In response to AN [sub]’s piece titled When you do the math, promoter extraordinaire Terry McAuliffe’s grand hybrid vehicle plan just doesn’t add up, the former Clinton fundraiser and DNC chair has written a feisty letter to the editor [sub], in which he argues

The Sept. 5 article about our efforts at GreenTech Automotive (“Real deal?”) stands in stark contrast with the Aug. 28 article in which you reported on partnerships between Toyota and Ford, Tesla, Aston Martin, Lotus and Salesforce.com (“Doing deals, Akio style”). The latter story says Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda “is breaking tradition to transform his ossified giant into a nimble competitor.”

Nimble competition is a key to success in our modern age of change and innovation. Yet you seem to take GreenTech to task for attempting just that. We aren’t trying to be GM, and we never plan on being bailed out by the U.S. government. We are embracing a different, leaner business model in which our world-class partners will play a key role in our success, and we are doing it with private capital.

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If The Times Are Bad, Someone Forgot To Tell Rolls-Royce And Ferrari

Derek Kreindler’s provocative defense of the Maserati Kubang sparked off an interesting discussion among TTAC’s Best and Brightest yesterday, about the the macroeconomic outlook for luxury brands. Sure, the American economy is struggling to stay out of a double-dip recession, credit is no longer as available as it was in the pre-Lehman days, and some argue that worse is still to come… but for the moment, the high end of the luxury market couldn’t be doing better. Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes tells Reuters [via AN [sub]] that his brand will set a new sales record this year, and that the outlook for 2012 is good, saying

I have not seen any reluctance to consider buying a Rolls-Royce. I do not feel that sentiment is deteriorating in the luxury market. We are dealing with people who are unusually wealthy and never really have to ask themselves, can I still afford this or not?

And it’s one thing to just talk, but Rolls is also putting its money where its mouth is, initiating a $16m expansion to its Goodwood plant. And it’s not the only luxury brand that seems to be confused about this “recession” that the peasants keep going on about…

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National Coalition for Safer Roads Run by American Traffic Solutions

Last month, a group calling itself the National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) obtained a great deal of exposure for red light cameras through the “National Stop on Red Week” publicity campaign. Several police departments around the country participated, with most news reports treating the issue as a public service announcement. Documents show the group coordinating this effort, NCSR, is controlled exclusively by the photo ticketing firm American Traffic Solutions (ATS).

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What's Wrong With This Picture: The Most Interesting Tuned Cayenne In World Edition
What does it take for a tuned Porsche Cayenne to be featured at TTAC? It must be nothing less than the most interesting tuned Cayenne in the world. And your…
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Washington: Traffic Camera Company Runs Press Relations for Lynnwood

The distinction between employees for a private photo enforcement firm and taxpayer-funded public servants blurred in the city of Lynnwood, Washington. Emails between city officials and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) suggest a cozy relationship developed where both sides were willing to perform the duties of the other in terms of marketing and public relations.

Lynnwood Police Sergeant Wayne “Kawika” Davis, for example, used official government resources and time to come up with a marketing plan to sell for the privately held firm at a conference held at the Tulalip Resort Casino in June.

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98% Choose Their Car On The Internet

Frank Greve’s “Taking Readers For a Ride” article told us a little bit about the priorities in he auto PR business. If you write for a buff-book, sugar will be blown up your anal orifice. If you are a blogger – tough noogies. That stance is utterly misguided and so past millennium, says someone who knows best. That someone is Scott Painter. Never heard of him? I’m sure you heard of TrueCar. Scott Painter is TrueCar’s founder. TrueCar and competitor Edmunds know the car business better than the manufacturers: Truecar and Edmunds predict monthly sales with razor-sharp accuracy, their analyses of transaction pricing and incentives provide unprecedented (and often unwelcome) transparency. Investor’s Business Daily had an interview with Painter. And what picture did he paint?

“Today, 98% of people who bought a car in the U.S. last month went online first. That is the reality and also the industry’s frustration.”

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AN: McAuliffe's Chinese EV Factory "Dead On Arrival"

Remember Bertels’ stranger-than-fiction write-up of former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe’s Mongolian EV /Visa plant? Charles Child at Automotive News [sub] has looked at McAuliffe’s scheme and comes away less than entirely impressed, noting that

even casual scrutiny of his vision reveals overwhelming obstacles. Let’s be plain: His plan is dead on arrival.

You won’t find a zinger like that in Bertel’s piece, but only because he keeps his head down detailing the entire bizarre history of McAuliffe’s venture, its roots as the “Hybrid Kinetic Motors” visa scheme, its ties to a couple of notorious former Brilliance boys and its money-first, product-later approach. Child’s takedown isn’t as well researched (nor does it contain anecdotes about former a Ambassador driving a lawnmower into a swimming pool), but the few remaining folks out there who think the former Democrat fundraiser might be on to something big should probably read on. After all, McAuliffe has put so much hype out there, this story is something of a target-rich environment for truth-tellers.

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Hammer Time: The Thrill Of The Shill

There are three roads for auto writers.

The first is the ‘golden’ road. You simply buy or test drive a car with no string attached. Consumer Reports and guerrilla reviewers who ‘test drive’ at the dealership are the recipients of this honor.

The second is the ‘reality’ road. You use the press fleets and go to sponsored events. It cost less. But you realize the shiny happy PR people are going to try to twist your arm.

Most successful journalists start at the guerrilla side of number one and end up at number two.

But there are a ‘chosen few’ who embrace a third road… the mouthpiece road. Who knows? If you can shill and ‘build’ your relationships, you may just end up with a Maserati.

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Fuel Economy Fudge-Gate: An Update

There was troubling news at the end of last week, as Automotive News [sub]’s Rick Kranz reported that an unnamed automaker was quietly accusing another unnamed automaker of tweaking its EPA fuel economy tests, arguing

There’s a noticeable difference between the mpg number posted on some cars’ window sticker and an analysis of the data submitted by automakers to the EPA.

We’ve tried to get several automakers to comment on the accusation, but nobody wants to touch it. But, as we’ve looked into the issue, a few more details have surfaced that seem worth sharing. Hit the jump for the latest…

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Ask The Best And Brightest: Which Automaker May Be Fudging Their EPA Numbers?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy testing system is notoriously weak, relying on self-reporting for the vast majority of vehicles, and exhibiting vulnerabilities to “gaming.” But rather than attacking each others’ EPA numbers, automakers seem to have agreed that it’s best if everyone does their best to juice their own numbers and allows the imperfect system to limp on. But over at Automotive News [sub], we’re hearing what could be the first shots fired in a new war over EPA ratings, as Product Editor Rick Kranz reveals that an OEM is starting to complain about another OEM’s fuel economy ratings. He writes:

An executive of one U.S. automaker suggests there might be some sleight of hand going on and that the EPA is not catching the offenders.

The issue: There’s a noticeable difference between the mpg number posted on some cars’ window sticker and an analysis of the data submitted by automakers to the EPA.

Ruh-roh!

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  • Beachy Asphalt only works to keep the dirt road below it dry, and it is the dry dirt that holds up the asphalt surface to make a smooth road surface. Once the asphalt cracks or a spring wells up and the dirt gets wet, all bets are off. It is usually due to a spring that perennial potholes form. They are very hard to get rid of.
  • JamesG I’m the owner of the featured car that’s currently on EBay. Thanks for such a nice write up on these cars. Mine happens to be in excellent condition and the photos don’t do it justice. The HT4100 isn’t as bad as some made them out to be and they can go 200k miles with proper maintenance. I also own a 79 w/the analog fuel injected 5.7 350 which should have been used through 1985 but ever-increasing CAFE regulations called for more economical power plants which made GM shelve this great motor.
  • Jeff S Adam on Rare Classic Cars recently bought a pristine 71 Kenosha Cadillac.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY-G2dExgXE&ab_channel=RareClassicCars%26AutomotiveHistory
  • Jeff S Wouldn't most of the large suvs in NYC be livery vehicles? If so that would be hurting those who make their living by driving for hire.
  • EBFlex Yes their mass transit is great if you want to be beat within an inch of your life or pushed onto the tracks by some random psycho.