On Tuesday, a federal judge approved a $1.5 billion settlement to pump the brakes on an investigation conducted by the U.S. government pursuing claims that Daimler used illicit software that allowed excess diesel emissions on 250,000 units. This runs in tandem with another $700 million settlement the automaker is making with vehicle owners, which is likely to see final approval in a few months, and an extensive recall campaign.
The federal case involves the U.S. Justice Department, the California Air Resources Board, and follows a trend of fines for automakers accused of misleading regulators so that diesel vehicles could continue being sold. This kicked off with Volkswagen’s Dieselgate in 2015, with numerous government probes taking place in Europe and North America over the next five years. Many automakers have since been discouraged from relying on diesel powertrains due to rising regulatory actions. European countries that once championed the fuel as ecologically preferable to gasoline, after the advent of biodiesels, are now obsessed with tamping down NOx emissions and getting more electric vehicles onto the road.
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.
The United Nation Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a report on Monday stating that Carlos Ghosn’s extended detention in Japan was an unacceptable infringement on his rights — adding that the matter would be forwarded to the UN’s rapporteur on torture, cruel and other inhuman or degrading treatment.
While there are undoubtedly larger examples of human rights abuses inside the automotive industry — Volkswagen’s apparent reliance on Chinese slave labor springs to mind — Japan’s bizarre treatment of the former head of the Renault-Nissan alliance garnered plenty of attention. Accused of financial crimes relating to the Japanese automaker he formally chaired and was once praised for saving, Ghosn was subjected to repeated arrests and strict limitations on who he was allowed to contact. Despite his having fled the country in a form befitting of a secret agent, the UN is still claiming his treatment ahead of the repeatedly delayed trial was tantamount to abuse.
Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida attempted to smooth things over with investors last week by going over his company’s new recovery plan in great detail. As you undoubtedly know by now, the automaker found itself in a less than blissful situation following an ugly internal power struggle that highlighted corporate corruption and a business strategy that seemed like a liability without ideal economic circumstances and the man who penned it running the show.
With its share price already suppressed by worsening sales performance and assumed “management issues” with alliance partner Renault, the internal scandal kicked off by the arrest of former chairman Carlos Ghosn November 2018 is what really sent Nissan’s stock into a tailspin. Shares have lost more than half their value since the incident.
This placed Uchida in the undesirable position of having to explain what went wrong and how to fix it. In the past, Uchida said he’d happily be fired if he can’t turn things around, though that’s usually what happens to CEOs who can’t deliver (or need to be scapegoated and sacrificed on the alter of commerce by their board). Based on comments made at the company’s most recent shareholder meeting, Uchida seems to understand how things work.
“I said, ‘If Nissan’s performance does not improve, please fire me. Please dismiss me,’ ” he reminded the crowd on June 29th. “That’s what I said. And this policy remains unchanged.”
Carlos Ghosn’s claim that he was the target of an industrial coup is looking a lot more valid this week after emails surfaced showing a high degree of internal organization regarding his ousting and subsequent criminal charges. The former head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance was infamous for wanting further integration within the pact. In fact, his aim was to make sure the tie-up became “irreversible.”
That idea never quite landed for Nissan leadership and Japanese shareholders, with many already holding the view that the alliance had already given French interests too much authority.
Emails dating back nearly one year before Ghosn’s November 2018 arrest clearly indicate top-level management at Nissan had a strong aversion to deepening ties with Renault. While understandable to a large degree, it’s counter to the claim that his removal was strictly about under-reported income and other financial malfeasance that were of particular interest to Tokyo prosecutors. At the very least, some actors at Nissan wanted to make sure the alliance patriarch suffered a massive loss of face while confronting allegations.
Over 200 investors are seeking 900 million euros in damages over claims that Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler failed to disclose the use of emissions cheating devices similar to those that got Volkswagen into trouble back in 2015. This isn’t the first time the issue has come up. German prosecutors claimed nearly 690,000 Mercedes-Benz vehicles came equipped with rigged exhaust gas after-treatment systems and Daimler was slammed with a €870 million ($960 million) fine over the negligent violation of European clean air standards in the fall.
Those who invested into the firm are hoping to recoup losses from the scandal after the automaker’s share price shat the bed. Lawyers repressing the investors are seeking compensation after Daimler’s stock fell from €90 a share fall to approximately €60 in 2018, once German regulators began formally accusing the automaker of trying to circumvent emission rules.
With UAW President Gary Jones taking a leave of absence during a broadening corruption probe into the union, acting head Rory Gamble is attempting to reassure members that there’ll be no more funny business.
“I know recent events concerning members of our leadership have disappointed and angered many of you. I am angry as well, but I am not here to pre-judge anyone. I am here to take this union forward,” he wrote in a letter.
The message, published Tuesday, saw Gamble take a firm stance on corruption and a slightly softer one regarding previously accused (or convicted) union leaders.
Auditors attempting to assess how down and dirty Carlos Ghosn’s spending habits were have reportedly become very interested in a YouTube video of a party held at the Palace of Versailles in 2014. While the clip doesn’t showcase any cash-fueled orgies or golden idol worship, it does present a extravagant party that was supposedly paid for by Renault-Nissan B.V. (RNBV). As you might recall, Ghosn’s repeated arrests in Japan were due to the alleged “mismanagement” of alliance funds.
Ghosn’s camp maintains that the event was held for business purposes — a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the alliance, which just happened to overlap with the ousted exec’s 60th birthday. Guests reportedly included a few Renault or Nissan executives scattered among roughly 160 celebrity attendees. You can watch the video yourself and decide whether or not it’s an egregious mishandling of corporate assets.
The embattled ex-patriarch of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance has posted an additional $4.5 million in bail. Beyond some new indictments regarding his alleged misappropriation of corporate funds, not much has changed regarding the case. Ghosn and his legal team continue to maintain his innocence, suggesting that Nissan orchestrated the entire ordeal as part of a industrial coup and further supported by Japanese courts that are perpetually hungry for convictions.
Unfortunately, everyone is making a pretty good case. The claims against Ghosn appear legitimate, but so do the accusations that Nissan’s entire investigation was primarily concerned with removing him from power. Similarly, Japan’s extremely high conviction rate and treatment of Ghosn have raised red flags in regard to his civil rights and whether he can expect a fair trial.
Out on bail and awaiting trial, former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Japan last week for the fourth time since November — putting the kibosh on a scheduled press conference where he promised to “tell the truth” about what’s been going on.
While Ghosn’s supposed bombshell will have to wait for another day, he did manage to get word out from prison in a personal video message to the world.
Happy to relegate Carlos Ghosn to the past, Renault has announced its former CEO will soon leave the company’s executive board, along with Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair. Annette Winkler, the ex-head of Daimler’s Smart brand, will be proposed as the new director at the company’s annual meeting in June, according to the automaker.
The company also decided that Ghosn is not entitled to an annual retirement salary of about 765,000 euros a year due to an internal probe that identified “questionable and concealed practices and violations of the group’s ethical principles.”
Of course, Ghosn maintains he was the victim of a corporate coup masterminded by Nissan executives. The ousted exec recently claimed he’s “getting ready to tell the truth about what’s happening” over social media.
Federal investigators are expanding their ongoing corruption investigation into the United Auto Workers and Detroit Three by taking a long look at donated money intended to buy flowers for member funerals. The concern is that the UAW’s “flower fund” may have been used as a slush fund to finance personal expenses for union officials.
It wouldn’t be the first time. Prosecutors have already secured the convictions of seven people via a probe into the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center. Several jailed union officials, along with former FCA-VP Alphons Iacobelli, helped investigators uncover illicit funds funneled through training centers and charities — including the Leave the Light On Foundation, created by the late General Holiefield. Now they’re helping the feds branch out.
The training center embezzlement scandal currently rocking the United Auto Workers began with the indictment of a former Fiat Chrysler labor chief who offered kickbacks to select union officials in exchange for favorable treatment. Alphons Iacobelli, the ex-FCA executive in question, was sentenced to five years in federal prison last August but spent nearly 10 months helping the FBI’s investigation into unionized corruption, resulting in additional indictments.
Federal prosecutors have secured convictions of seven people linked to the conspiracy at this point, claiming FCA executives provided gifts or covert cash payments through the jointly operated UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in an effort to influence collective bargaining. It became such a problem that several union officials now claim they engaged in illicit activities because they were fearful of bucking the trend, losing their six-figure salaries, and being forced back onto factory floors — you know, like the people they were supposed to be representing.
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- MaintenanceCosts Why do you have to accept two fewer cylinders in your gas engine to get an electric motor? (This question also applies to the CX-90.)
- Zipper69 Do they have unique technology that might interest another manufacturer?
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