By on April 23, 2021

2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE, Image: FCA

Federal prosecutors Tuesday unsealed new criminal charges that named several Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) officials accused of conspiring to cheat U.S. emissions tests and defraud customers buying their diesel-powered products. The indictment was opened in the Eastern District of Michigan, identifying FCA diesel senior manager Emanuele Palma (42) and two Italian nationals employed by FCA Italy SpA — Sergio Pasini (43) of Ferrera and Gianluca Sabbioni (55) of Sala Bolognese.

Palma had been charged previously and becomes a co-conspirator in the alleged plot to develop a 3.0-liter diesel engine used in FCA vehicles that could flummox emissions tests allowing the automaker to sell vehicles that did not adhere to government regulations. The motor started appearing inside engine bays in 2014, including popular models like the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee.  (Read More…)

By on April 16, 2021

Washington has elected to become the first slice of America to ban the internal combustion motor, and we don’t just mean new sales. The Pacific state passed a bill on Thursday that would make the registration of gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles from the 2030 model year onwards illegal — leaving residents with the option to purchase a new electric vehicle, buy a secondhand gas burner, or throw up their hands and move elsewhere.

It’s an interesting concept, especially considering there’s very little evidence to suggest the industry will be at a point where total EV adoption will be remotely plausible by 2030. Even California, which is famous for its heavy-handed environmental regulations didn’t think it could start mandating the death of the internal combustion engine until at least 2035. Though Washington is reportedly not making this a concrete rule and it hinges on the adoption of another bill that would tax vehicles based on the number of miles driven. Think of it like a fuel tax that follows you around, even if you’re not using any.  (Read More…)

By on April 13, 2021

It looks like the White House won’t be needing to take any action in response to the International Trade Commission’s decision on how to handle the feud between South Korea’s LG Chem and SK Innovation. The duo has reached a settlement that would allow the former battery manufacturer to complete assembly on its $2.6-billion plant located in Georgia.

LG alleged that SK had stolen intellectual property and the ITC was backing punitive measures that would have forbade the latter company from importing certain lithium-ion batteries into the United States under a 10-year exclusion order. While exemptions were made for the components necessary to manufacturer them in the country, the arrangement was tied to SK’s existing orders and limited to just 4 years. The settlement gives SK additional leeway and prevents Joe Biden from having to consider the possibility of blocking the ITC decision as a way of maintaining American jobs.  (Read More…)

By on March 30, 2021

The lawsuits continue against EV startup Rivian. Though it hasn’t built any vehicles to date, the company has an aggressive plan to manufacture its “Tesla killer” vehicles at the former Diamond Star Motors plant at Normal, Illinois, and sell its wares directly to customers via nine showrooms across the nation. Various parties take issue with both the building and selling facets at Rivian, and the company has lawsuits with dealers in Illinois as well as Tesla. (Read More…)

By on March 10, 2021

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.

(Read More…)

By on February 26, 2021

The outside firm Nikola hired to conduct the internal investigation looking into the validity of claims made by ousted founder Trevor Milton has reached a conclusion. Milton does appear to have been fabricating the status of the company’s technology and how far along its prototypes were. But Nikola wasn’t helping and ended up being implicated in a few falsehoods of its own.

Some wealthy individual lying to a sea of people for the sake of making money is hardly news, however. The entire world runs on politicians and business people going back on promises made months earlier and clarifying statements that never seem to illuminate anything. What makes Milton’s offense so bad is that he seems to have used the power of lying to mislead investors who might have otherwise made money. Nikola shares never truly recovered from the exposé published by Hindenburg Research as part of its plan to short the company, and those who never bothered to question the legitimacy of its technical claims before investing are suddenly very interested in knowing everything about the business.

(Read More…)

By on February 12, 2021

Battery suppliers LG Chem and SK Innovation have what could be politely described as an intense rivalry. With the automotive industry desperate to secure reliable access to the most essential components for the planned electric vehicle offensive, chemical companies specializing in electronics are very much in demand and they’re all jockeying for power.

On Wednesday, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) sided with LG Chem after it had accused SK Innovation of misappropriating trade secrets pertaining to EV battery technologies. But Ford CEO Jim Farley is asking the South Korean businesses to call a ceasefire and settle things out of court, presumably through the transfer of a large sum of money.

(Read More…)

By on February 2, 2021

The Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation (CSAR) is officially withdrawing from a lawsuit between California and federal authorities over the coastal state’s ability to establish its own emissions standards. California leadership had vowed to ignore the Trump administration’s proposed rollback and began making binding side deals with automakers (specifically BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Honda) committed to adhering to the aggressive limits established under President Obama. Unfortunately, this ran the risk of undermining the revised national standards penned shortly after the United States became energy independent. It also set up the CSAR to embrace any entity that had views conflicting with California Air Resources Board.

Federal concerns were that the Golden State setting its own targets would butt heads with the relaxed national benchmarks and ultimately divide the U.S. market and may even influence the types of vehicles that were manufactured for all of North America. But the issue became moot once President Biden broke the record for executive orders by signing 22 in his first week. Predictably, the brunt of these were designed to instantly undo any actions taken throughout the duration of the Trump administration and included one directing the Department of Transportation and EPA to reconsider the 2019 decision to remove California’s authority to limit tailpipe emissions by April and revise the fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles by summer.

(Read More…)

By on December 9, 2020

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) has managed to stall enforcement of a ballot measure recently passed in Massachusetts that expands access to data related to vehicle maintenance and repair. Last week, the relatively new lobbying/trade group asked a U.S. district court for a temporary order that would bar implementation of the state’s new right-to-repair rules aimed at giving vehicle owners more direct control of their private data and independent repair shops a fighting chance of staying in business. But the state’s attorney general has already decided that the rules are invalid until after federal cases have been decided.

The decision represents another victory for giant, multinational corporations at the expense of disgusting citizens interested in controlling their personal information and small business owners who have had it easy for far too long.

(Read More…)

By on December 7, 2020

When the United States announced it would be offering payroll relief to the countless small businesses it impacted with government shutdowns intended to combat COVID-19 earlier this year, everyone breathed a sigh of relief into their mask. Unfortunately, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) became a confusing bureaucratic mess almost instantly. It wasn’t clear how companies would account for part-time or contracted employees, numerous banks denied help to those with less than stellar financial histories, and the application website repeatedly crashed — which was awful for a service that was designed to accommodate candidates on a first-come-first-serve basis.

There were also numerous provisions that allowed big business to take advantage if their individual locations were small enough and loopholes for companies that weren’t even required to shut down operations. Criticisms understandably began to surface, followed by months of commercials asking concerned citizens to report instances of fraud. One such example came into focus this week after a former sales representative for a Pennsylvania-based dealership group launched a federal lawsuit against their ex-employer alleging that it had violated the False Claims Act in relation to PPP.

(Read More…)

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…)

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