By on November 23, 2020

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.

(Read More…)

By on November 18, 2020

Hyundai Motor Co. is being sued over a series of battery fires in its electric vehicles in Asia — specifically in relation to the otherwise-enjoyable Kona EV. Though it hardly seems fair to single out Hyundai when General Motors recently issued a recall encompassing 68,677 electric vehicles with batteries manufactured by LG Chem. Interestingly, Hyundai’s 74,000-strong Kona recall (which includes 11,082 units sold to the United States and Canada) uses the same supplier.

EV fires have become a hot topic within the industry, specifically because it runs the risk of slowing adoption rates and makes the affected automaker look wildly inept. Lawsuits don’t help the matter but Hyundai’s more immediate concerns involve proving that LG is the one that screwed up. While it hasn’t pointed any fingers directly at the supplier, it has dropped subtle hints while LG Chem insists its products are not defective. The duo is reportedly collaborating on an internal investigation into the troubled vehicles — 16 of which have burst into flames in North America, Europe, and Asia.

(Read More…)

By on November 5, 2020

Independent repair shops and aftermarket parts retailers have been pitted against major automakers and their dealer networks in Massachusetts for years. The state has served as the primary battleground for right-to-repair legislation that would permit/prohibit customers and independent entities from working on or modifying vehicles. However, a major victory came on Tuesday after voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure updating existing right-to-repair laws to give vehicle owners and small shops better access to vehicle data typically reserved for industry giants.

The resulting decision gives consumers substantially more control over what’s done with the data being harvested by the industry (often without their knowledge) and frees up their options on who to go to when their vehicle needs fixing.

(Read More…)

By on October 26, 2020

A small group of drivers are suing Uber over repetitive in-app messages from the company about Proposition 22, a ballot initiative it would very much like them to support. Considering the deluge of political messages you’re undoubtedly getting on your own cellular device, you’re probably sympathetic to their plight. There are few things more annoying than being constantly reminded about an election nobody seems capable of shutting up about — especially when they can’t seem to get your name right.

But Uber likely crossed a line with its employees. While political action campaigns can inundate you with the most obnoxious and misleading election information, your employer isn’t supposed to. These drivers are claiming Uber violated their employment rights by trying to get them to support a ballot measure it has a vested interest in every time they checked their mobile device to hunt for a fare.

(Read More…)

By on October 23, 2020

A California appeals court unanimously ruled against ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft on Thursday, mandating that they would indeed need to reclassify drivers operating within the state as employees.

The duo have been pushing against Assembly Bill 5, which seeks to reclassify contracted, gig-economy workers as fully fledged employees entitled to all the associated benefits, all year. California even sued Uber and Lyft in May for refusing to comply with with the order but they’ve claimed AB5 will severely hinder (if not eliminate) their ability to operate within the state and have backed a measure called Proposition 22 that would grant them special exceptions.

(Read More…)

By on October 5, 2020

California’s Proposition 22 is a torpedo launched by the SS Gig Economy and will undoubtedly sink Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) if the measure passes this November. The proposal seeks to flip new laws (instituted in January) that prohibit companies from erroneously categorizing employees as independent contractors, forcing them to adhere to minimum wage laws  while likewise offering paid overtime, unemployment insurance, worker’s comp, and other obligatory benefits under the state’s regulatory guidelines. Critics have faulted numerous employers (sometimes whole industries) for abusing staff by falsely labeling them as contractors in a bid to save money. Ride-hailing platforms, like Lyft and Uber, are said to be among the worst offenders and have certainly offered the greatest push back against AB5.

Proponents of Prop 22 frequently cite the enhanced freedom that comes with the gig lifestyle. Contractors are not forced to work more hours than they want to and are likewise not beholden to their employers (or vice versa). While everyone from publishers to delivery agencies are eager to push that narrative as a positive, nobody is spending as much as Uber and Lyft to undermine the public’s opinion of the proposal. Combined, they’re dropping over $100 million to see that Prop 22 passes. Because the alternative will be far more costly for the on-demand ride-sharing businesses.

(Read More…)

By on September 16, 2020

General Motors refuses to let the dismissal of its federal racketeering case against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stand in the way of getting what it believes is true justice. On Monday, the automaker filed its latest claim with Wayne County Circuit Court in Michigan. These are separate from the New Jersey lawsuit it has targeting former board member and ex-UAW vice president Joe Ashton, who GM has accused of being a hired mole. However, Ashton was named in the trio of new court filings, along with Alphons Iacobelli  the man who pled guilty to embezzling union funds and kicked off a gigantic federal corruption investigation into the UAW.

The automaker also named some of the banks it claimed were involved in the union scandal and continues to allege that FCA “provided millions of dollars to co-conspirators via numerous undisclosed offshore bank accounts and utilized such accounts to purchase the support and silence of numerous high-level UAW officers and FCA executives.” Fiat Chrysler’s assumed goal? Forcing General Motors into a merger or destroy it if the merger failed by negotiating favorable terms with the union and encouraging leadership into adopting positions that would harm GM.

(Read More…)

By on September 15, 2020

Greg Kelly, the American businessman and former Nissan board member that was arrested with ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn almost two years ago, has pleaded not guilty to the financial misconduct charges leveled against him in Japan. While he was supposed to stand trial with Mr. Ghosn, Carlos escaped his captors with the help of at least one U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and a lot of careful planning at the end of 2019. Kelly is accused of helping the former chairman hide millions of dollars in deferred compensation.

During the trial, he defended Ghosn by saying he was an outstanding automotive executive who helped save Nissan in its darkest hour. He also hinted that the firm should have done everything in its power to retain him, adding that his role was to find legal ways of keeping Ghosn from jumping ship to a rival company. While that included financial incentives, Kelly asserted during the trial that Nissan’s attorneys were always consulted before decisions were made and that no illegal actions were taken. “I informed Mr. Ghosn what could be done legally and what could not be done legally,” he told the court. “I believe the evidence will show that I did not violate the [financial] disclosure regulations.”

(Read More…)

By on August 25, 2020

Honda Motor Co. has agreed to pay $84.2 million to settle an investigation conducted by American states regarding its use of the famously defective Takata airbags — units linked to numerous deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Honda recalled about 12.9 million vehicles (some of them Acura models) equipped with inflation devices that ran the risk of accumulating moisture to the point where the propellant inside could destabilize, leading to an overly forceful explosion during an impact. Upon rupturing, these units could effectively spray shrapnel into the cabin area.

While Honda’s first major recalls were enacted in 2008, by 2013 millions of vehicles were in the process of being retracted by rival manufacturers that also used Takata as a supplier. And it just kept getting bigger until it was the largest recall in history, with Honda receiving the most ire due to the high number of fatalities suffered within its vehicles — and for having prior knowledge of the defects. (Read More…)

By on August 25, 2020

Frequently on the cutting edges of technology, the automotive industry has been slamming chips into vehicles to facilitate communications ever since General Motors launched OnStar back in 1996. This evolved into cars boasting reliable navigation systems and remote vehicle diagnostics until they literally started becoming mobile internet hot spots.

Now the industry wants to further ingrain connectivity by equipping all vehicles with 5G — opening the road for new features and the ability to harvest your personal data more effectively.

This has required deals with tech chip manufacturers like Qualcomm, which requires companies to sign a patent license agreement before actually selling any of its hardware or software. But regulators around the globe worried the practice may be monopolistic, violating antitrust laws. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought a case against the business in 2017. Despite winning that case in 2019, a U.S. appeals court overturned the decision earlier this month, deciding Qualcomm could continue conducting business as usual. Now, tech companies (mainly Qualcomm rivals) and a gaggle of automakers are urging the FTC to seek an appeal following the loss. (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2020

The battle between the purveyors of ride-hailing apps and the State of California has been an interesting one. The West Coast’s gig economy looked ready to be nuked from orbit following the passing of Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), leaving a glassy crater of jobless part-timers and the corporations that were dependent upon them — even though the stated goal of the rule was to protect gig workers from being taken advantage of.

Uber and Lyft looked to be the most impacted by the new law, as their entire business structure revolves around managing fares for drivers whose status as “independent contractors” was up for debate.

Claiming that hiring drivers as full-fledged employees would make the existing business model untenable, Uber and Lyft suggested they were looking into alternative solutions while fighting legal battles that would effectively make them exempt from the new law. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman threw cold water on that concept when he ruled against the duo, saying drivers were essential to ride-hailing operations and needed to be treated as regular employees receiving the full benefits they’re entitled to.

The corporations’ last hope was double down on threat to leave the state and hope a California appeals court would grant them an extension to stage another legal fight, or just comply with AB5… which is exactly what happened on Thursday afternoon. (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2020

General Motors’ attempt to revive its RICO lawsuit has failed after a federal court claimed the new evidence presented was too speculative to start the legal process back up. U.S. District Judge Paul Borman dismissed the case with prejudice in July, calling it a “waste of time,” but GM returned with new evidence it hoped might turn the tables.

Filed in November, the General’s case against FCA claims its rival finagled a labor advantage by bribing UAW officials during key contract negotiations. With a federal corruption case still probing the union, and with Fiat Chrysler’s known involvement, it seems like GM might have had a case here. But Judge Borman didn’t think there was sufficient evidence before, and hasn’t changed his mind since.

(Read More…)

By on August 6, 2020

On Thursday, Munich-based prosecutors announced the indictment of four more ex-Audi managers in relation to Volkswagen Group’s infamous diesel emission scandal. This follows the charges brought against former CEO Rupert Stadler and a handful of Audi staffers in 2018.

The latest indictment involves three former board members and one department head who has since retired. Prosecutors stated the alleged crimes relate to 434,420 cars manufactured by VW Group brands which we already know where sold with trick software designed to circumvent emissions testing, according to Reuters and German outlet Handelsblatt. However, the grand total of vehicles suspected to be in violation of regulatory law are suggested to be closer to 11 million globally.

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By on August 4, 2020

Last November, General Motors filed a racketeering suit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, claiming its rival was involved in a prolonged bribery scheme with UAW leaders to gain an unfair labor-cost advantage. Despite FCA already having staff participating in a vast union corruption scandal, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman dismissed the GM case in July after claiming there was nothing to it beyond petty corporate squabbling.

Now GM is back, claiming it has new evidence against FCA that’s going to blow the lid off everything.

On Monday, the General asked the court to reinstate the racketeering lawsuit. It now claims that there’s evidence of foreign bank accounts used in the alleged bribery scandal. We say “alleged” despite the FBI’s continued investigation into the UAW (separate from the GM-FCA suit) showing criminal levels of corruption. The company even suggested that Alphons Iacobelli (who is already serving time for bribing union officials) channeled sensitive information back to FCA after being hired by GM. The claimed plot then has Fiat Chrysler paying the Iacobelli  family millions of dollars via overseas accounts.

“These new facts warrant amending the court’s prior judgment, so we are respectfully asking the court to reinstate the case,” GM said.

(Read More…)

By on July 23, 2020

Tesla is accusing Rivian Automotive of poaching its employees and lifting trade secrets in a recent complaint filed in San Jose, CA. Founded in 2009 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology alum R.J. Scaringe, Rivian has made inroads with the automotive sector and established partnerships with entities like Amazon and Ford Motor Company (we think).

While its home base is presently TBD, as the company considers shifting more of its staff to the West Coast, its mission has remained consistent  manufacture all-electric SUVs and pickups so they can wash over North America.

Rivian is one of those “Tesla killers” you keep hearing about before they suddenly blip out of existence, but it has enough weight behind it to potentially offer real competition in the future it plays its cards right. Tesla is just worried that some of those cards might not belong to Rivian.

(Read More…)

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