By on June 23, 2020

On Monday, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced that his state will embrace California-crafted emissions rules that are at odds with the national rollback finalized by the Trump administration in March.

Officially, Sisolak said the rules would not require residents to abandon their current ride “or choose one that does not work for their lifestyle or business needs.” Nevada has, however, decided to adopt higher mpg standards, as well as the Golden State’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) rules that require manufacturers to sell a certain number of electric or plug-in hybrid models each year based on the total number of vehicles sold within the state.

Companies in compliance accrue ZEV credits, which can then be traded or sold to other manufacturers for money. As with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) system, those that cannot hit their targets (or afford to buy up credits) will be fined. Tesla actually used such arrangements to make $594 million off its rivals in 2019, with the prospect of things only getting more lucrative for the all-electric brand.  (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2020

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.  (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2020

Ford has weathered heavy criticism for moving bunk transmissions for some time. Normally, that conversation revolves around the PowerShift DSP6 (aka Getrag 6DCT250) installed in passenger cars with names beginning with the letter “F.”

The unit turned out to have a laundry list of problems and ultimately created a ruckus between management, engineers, and Ford’s legal team. Concerned that scrapping the dual-clutch automatic at the last minute would prove a costly decision in the midst of our last economic recession, the manufacturer ran with it — only to be confronted with annoyed consumers who felt the transmission wasn’t anywhere near up to par.

While the DSP6 is the unit that gets top billing for What Were They Thinking: The Movie, it wasn’t the only transmission prompting headaches in Dearborn. Another Getrag-sourced unit, the MT82 six-speed manual, is allegedly a sore sport for Mustang drivers. Owners of 2011-2019 model year Ford Mustangs are now suing the manufacturer for delivering what they claim is another faulty product.  (Read More…)

By on May 28, 2020

Following America’s fueling feud has shown your author that it’s less about finding a reasonable compromise that works for consumers, the automotive industry, and environmental activists, and more about perpetuating ideological wars that now seem to surround every topic filtered through the news media.

Encouraged by industry leaders just days after taking office, President Donald Trump made the fuel economy rollback one of his first initiatives. It wasn’t until March that the softened final draft emerged, however, and it won’t be enough to conclude the almost four-year battle. A collection of 23 states filed suit against the Trump administration’s easing of emissions standards on Wednesday. They argue that the rollback is illegal and based on bunk information.

While we’ve also been suspect of some of the metrics used to make the rollback look more desirable, fueling standards haven’t adhered to reality in some time. The Obama-era standards that would have seen Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rise to 54 mpg by 2025 were deemed unsustainable by that administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but were put into play anyway.  (Read More…)

By on May 26, 2020

Volkswagen’s emission-related malfeasance was promptly identified and dealt with in the United States. The company was accused of using suspect software to game testing scores on diesel-equipped models in 2015. By October of 2016, VW was on the hook for a $15.6 billion financial penalty, in addition to mandatory fixes or buybacks on affected vehicles.

Things progressed differently on the European front. Germany has subjected the manufacturer to numerous investigations, ultimately deciding to fine the firm $1.18 billion in 2018 and enact widespread recalls. Civil suits have largely focused on VW’s legal representatives denying the software had any ill intent, claiming it was simply code that mistakenly allowed the cars to become non-compliant with regulatory limits. This didn’t fly, however, with a gigantic UK lawsuit finding the automaker guilty of intentionally misleading customers in April.

This week, VW lost another important legal battle in Germany when the Bundesgerichtshof found it guilty of cheating on emissions testing years earlier. The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe decided disenfranchised diesel van owner Herbert Gilbert was entitled to a €28,000 payday, setting a precedent for thousands of other claimants seeking revenge.  (Read More…)

By on May 20, 2020

Every time we think the United States’ fueling fracas had concluded, something new emerges to remind us that we’re utter morons. Despite the Trump administration finally wrapping up the fuel rollback of Obama-era emission standards on March 31st, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) has sent another letter asking Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General Sean O’Donnell to look into the new rules.

Carper asked the inspector general last February to conduct an investigation into “potentially unlawful efforts and procedural problems” stemming from their implementation. His assertion is that the EPA was circumventing various procedural requirements and attempted to hide data that would have conflicted with some of the rollback’s claimed benefits.

Did it?
(Read More…)

By on April 2, 2020

A man was arrested Sunday after leading Washington State law enforcement on a high-speed pursuit. Reports allege he struck two cars during what looked to be an extreme case of joyriding, but the plot thickened as the situation morphed into a police chase along Interstate 5. As they caught up, Washington State Patrol said they noticed there was a dog behind the wheel.

At the time, the vehicle was travelling in excess of 100 mph.

Police used spike strips to finally bring the vehicle to a halt, with trooper Heather Axtman noting that one of her coworkers realized the pit bull was actually sitting in the lap of a man who was helping it steer while also controlling the pedals. Once stopped, he told authorities he was attempting to teach the dog to drive.  (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2020

On Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced that the Real ID deadline — which had previously been delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak — has been pushed back until October 21st, 2021, as directed by President Trump.

Enacted in May of 2005, the Real ID Act was basically Congress over-responding to 9/11 by mandating that state-issued driver’s licenses be updated so they can be used for official purposes by the federal government (as defined by Homeland Security). While the primary goal is to mitigate air travel of undocumented immigrants between states, the aforementioned “official purposes” applies to whatever the federal government thinks prudent on any given day — including barring citizens without the ID from military bases or federal buildings, in addition to air travel.

If you haven’t heard of Real IDs (indicated by a little gold star in the corner), you’re not alone. The issue only gets a smattering of coverage every couple of years; plenty of states spent the period following 2005 pushing back against the plan, delaying its implementation several times via extensions. It was initially supposed to come into effect in four phases starting in 2008, but changes didn’t actually start until 2014. At this point, the nation is at phase three (which restricts access to federal facilities), with phase four applying new rules to U.S. air travel. (Read More…)

By on March 12, 2020

The hosts of the Discovery Channel’s Diesel Brothers have been fined $851,451 for selling modified pickups that violate Utah law and the federally recognized Clean Air Act.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby also said the plaintiffs, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, could submit their attorney fees for the defendants to pay. Cole Cannon, lawyer to the stars, has said the plaintiffs’ attorneys previously told the judge they were seeking $1.2 million.

Friday’s court documents stipulate that David “Heavy D” Sparks, Joshua Stuart, Keaton Hoskins, and “Diesel Dave” Kiley pay $761,451 to the U.S. government with the remaining $90,000 going to Davis County in Utah. The group has already been found guilty of removing particulate filters and exhaust recirculation systems on the cars used for the television program. The only genuine surprise was the sizable fine —  as well as some court-appointed rules that will probably make the show less exciting to watch.  (Read More…)

By on March 10, 2020

Colorado has been considering allowing automakers to sell electric vehicles directly to consumers, but pushback from dealerships complicated things. Senate Bill 167 was intended to level the playing field against Tesla, which already engaged in direct sales, by opening up the door for rival electric vehicle manufacturers to similarly bypass the dealership model.

However, dealer groups noticed the language in the bill effectively permitted any automaker producing EVs to engage in direct sales, Naturally, they cried foul. The bill had its final legislative hearing on Monday, and its new language identifies a difference between a legacy automaker with existing storefronts and EV firms without them.  (Read More…)

By on March 5, 2020

Uber Otto

The former leader of Uber Technologies’ self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday, and it looks to have something to do with the $179 million he’s legally obliged to pay Google. A San Francisco County court decreed the same day that Anthony needs to pay out in order to settle his contract dispute.

In December, it was ruled that Levandowski and Lior Ron violated their agreement with Google when they left the company to start Otto — a rival autonomous vehicle company focused primarily on commercial trucking. Uber purchased Otto in 2017 but Google’s self-driving arm (which evolved into Waymo) claimed Levandowski violated intellectual property laws by stealing trade secrets it owned for Uber. While Ron decided to pay $9.7 million to settle with the tech firm, Anthony held out. He also faces a federal indictment over the alleged intellectual property violation.  (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2020

Japanese Deputy Justice Minister Hiroyuki Yoshiie reportedly traveled to Lebanon this past weekend in an attempt to convince Carlos Ghosn to give up his life on the lam and head back to Tokyo to stand trial. Considering the defamed automotive executive fled the country because he was positively convinced this would end in a conviction, we probably won’t need to issue any follow-up reports about how the meeting ended.

Ghosn has repeatedly stressed his belief that Japan aided Nissan in ousting him from the company and has no interest in giving him a fair trial — calling it a “hostage justice” system.

Of course, all the real negotiating will be done by proxy through Lebanese Justice Minister Albert Serhan, with the pair scheduled to meet on Monday. Ghosn won’t actually be in attendance, but you had better believe he’ll be interested in the play-by-play recap. With his mind already made up on the matter, Japan will need to focus on persuading Serhan.  (Read More…)

By on February 28, 2020

German consumer group VZBV has reached an agreement in its class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen over the use of illegal software intended to cheat emissions testing. The settlement amounts to 830 million euros (roughly $912 million USD). While not nearly as sizable as what U.S. customers received in their settlement, it’s what VW believes its European customers deserved. Citing a breakdown in negotiations with VZBV earlier this year, the automaker said it was willing to offer €830 million and wasn’t interested in shelling out any extra for litigation attorneys who allegedly wanted €50 million for handling the case.

The manufacturer seems to have gotten its way, though we doubt VW considers shelling out another billion to handle a five-year-old scandal a major victory. (Read More…)

By on February 19, 2020

Michael Grimes, former executive assistant and board member of the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, was sentenced to 28 months in prison Wednesday after being convicted of money laundering and wire fraud.

While the sentence could have been longer, prosecutors reportedly asked for leniency due to Grimes’ cooperation with the broader investigation. Initially pushing for about four years of jail time, they eventually toned the recommendation down to just two. U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman acknowledged the defendant’s usefulness in helping federal authorities sniff out more union and industry corruption, then decided to stick him with an extra couple of months to send a message. (Read More…)

By on February 14, 2020

Volkswagen has had to spend mountains of money since being caught using illegal software to hide excessive diesel pollution during regulatory testing five years ago. As if millions of vehicle buybacks and repairs weren’t costly enough, VW also had to contend with billions of dollars in regulatory fines and countless consumer lawsuits — and the hits keep on coming.

While the United States enacted swift justice upon VW, Europe has been slower to take action. That, in addition to EU laws making it much more difficult for class-action suits to get off the ground, meant Europeans received nothing as VW’s American customers saw checks cut to the tune of $20,000 apiece. Germany has only allowed class-action lawsuits since 2018, providing an opportunity for Volkswagen to continue playing legal hardball. But it’s been backpedaling all across Europe.

Citing a breakdown in negotiations with German consumer association VZBV, which was attempting to reach a settlement deal for German customers attached to its class-action suit, the automaker said Friday it is willing to offer €830 million (about $899 million).  (Read More…)

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