By on June 14, 2018

Volkswagen VW Badge Emblem Logo

In 2017, the U.S. hit Volkswagen with a $4.3 billion fine as part of the company’s plea agreement for violating of the Clean Air Act. It was a rough ride for the automaker, caught using defeat devices on its diesel engines, but it brought the scandal more or less to a close in America.

An ocean away, it seemed nothing would come of the endless raids by German authorities on VW-owned facilities. Apparently, the wheels of justice just turn a little slower in Europe, as the automaker was fined 1 billion euros on Wednesday. It’s one of the largest financial penalties ever imposed on a company by German authorities.  (Read More…)

By on June 6, 2018

public domain

Mazda can’t seem to shake a recent history that saw its vehicles fall victim to the flesh-eating disease in embarrassing numbers. We’ve seen corrosion issues crop up in a myriad of recalls issued by the automaker over the past several years, and it’s raised its flaky brown head once again.

This time, it’s just a preliminary investigation, but probes conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have a way of turning into recalls in a hurry. The model in question is the 2009-2010 Mazda 6, and the issue is a subframe that can become so corroded, you might have trouble staying on the road. (Read More…)

By on May 25, 2018

Image: South Jordan Police Department via Associated Press

The collision earlier this month between a Tesla Model S and a stopped fire truck in Utah didn’t result in serious injuries, but questions remain as to why the vehicle, piloted by a suite of driving aids, didn’t recognize the approaching danger.

Witnesses claim the vehicle didn’t brake in the moments leading up to the impact. The driver, admittedly distracted by her phone (for a period of 80 seconds), only reacted less than a second before impact, police said. Now, thanks to a South Jordan Police Department report obtained by The Associated Press (via The Detroit News), we know a little more about what happened in those last moments. (Read More…)

By on May 4, 2018

Volkswagen VW Badge Emblem Logo

Germany intends to stay on ex-Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn after news broke Thursday that the former top executive faces criminal charges in the United States.

The indictment, filed under seal in March, was opened in a U.S. District Court in Detroit on Thursday during VW’s annual meeting in Germany. “If you try to deceive the United States, then you will pay a heavy price,” said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company.”

However, the burden of tangible justice will likely fall on Europe. Germany doesn’t make a habit of extraditing citizens for trial, and it’s still conducting its own investigation into VW Group’s emissions-cheating scandal — which it intends to continue.

“Our investigation strategy does not change just because the Americans have filed charges against Winterkorn,” a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office of Brunswick said on Friday. You’ll have to excuse us for not having much faith Germany’s justice system, as its current strategy appears to involve conducting as many raids as humanly possible without any results.  (Read More…)

By on March 21, 2018

Volkswagen VW Badge Emblem Logo

While companies are often found guilty of sketchy and illicit behavior, it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to feel some measure of sympathy for German automakers. The same goes for the government officials whose job it is to repeatedly raid the homes and offices of people employed by those manufacturers. Once gain, German prosecutors have searched both Volkswagen and BMW over diesel-related shenanigans.

Volkswagen saw 13 of its offices raided in Wolfsburg throughout the month of March. Braunschweig-based authorities seized physical and digital files in the hopes of catching the automaker in a lie from 2015. At the time, VW claimed an in-house investigation found it had understated fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions on no more than 36,000 vehicles. Considering the diesel emissions scandal affected far more vehicle than this, as well as the company’s much higher earlier estimate, prosecutors hope to catch the company out.

Meanwhile, BMW saw its facilities searched over suspicions that it employed a defeat device to circumvent diesel emission testing. The automaker said authorities were looking into “erroneously allocated” software on the BMW 750d and BMW M550d.  (Read More…)

By on February 18, 2018

2017 Mercedes-Benz C350e grille hood ornament - Image: Mercedes-Benz

U.S. investigators have found what could be illegal software modifications on Mercedes-Benz diesels intended to help the vehicles pass emissions testing. An engine management function called Slipguard recognized whether the car was undergoing testing procedures while another, called Bit 15, halted emissions cleaning after roughly 16 miles of driving. Together, the two pieces of software may amount to what is known within the industry as a “defeat device.”

When paired the software apparently enabled the cars to produce NOx levels up to 10 times higher than what is legally permitted. Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz issued a voluntary recall upon roughly 3 million European cars last month to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by tweaking their electronic control units.  (Read More…)

By on November 22, 2017

uber volvo

In the midst of Uber Technologies’ corporate restructuring and cultivation of a squeaky-clean new image, the ride-hailing company was apparently hiding a dark secret. Striving for transparency, the company has now confessed that hackers stole the personal information of 57 million customers and drivers in October of 2016.

The coverup, apparently conducted by the firm’s chief security officer and another staff member, involved over $100,000 in payments to the hackers in the hopes to keep them quiet. The data lost included names, email addresses, and phone numbers of around 50 million Uber riders across the globe. Another 7 million drivers were also subjected to the digital attack, with over half a million of those losing their driver’s license numbers.  (Read More…)

By on October 27, 2017

2016 Ford Fusion

Perhaps more than any other vehicle component, a steering wheel must function properly for the safe operation of a car or truck. Without it, you’re just along for the ride.

That’s why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking three reports of steering wheels detaching from the column in late-model Ford Fusions so seriously. In one case, the wheel came off in the driver’s hands. The agency has now opened a preliminary investigation into three model years of the Fusion. (Read More…)

By on October 24, 2017

german flag and reichstag

Following an earlier raid at BMW, Daimler AG and Volkswagen Group were also searched by antitrust officials from the European Union Commission and German government this week. Despite claiming whistleblower status, Daimler is still subject to investigation — though it’s less likely to incur the same financial penalties if the collusion charges go to court.

Over the summer, investigators from the EU stated there would be an investigation into several German carmakers after allegations surfaced that companies conspired to fix prices on various automotive technologies over several decades. But it wasn’t until Monday that officials searched Daimler’s corporate offices and collected documents from Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg and at Audi’s home base in Ingolstadt. (Read More…)

By on October 23, 2017

Fiat logo

Emission probes have been in fashion for a couple of years now, especially in Europe. In France, the most recent target is FCA. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is currently under a judicial investigation as to whether or not it misled customers and cheated during emissions testing.

Though the terms of probe are unclear, a letter from the French magistrate kicked off the new investigation earlier this month. In the letter, the head of the investigation says the suspected emissions cheating dates back as early as September 2009, and involves the Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Jeep brands. FCA is also under investigation in the United States over possible emissions cheating with its light-duty diesel truck engines.  (Read More…)

By on October 20, 2017

BMW logo emblem badge

Back in July, German authorities became concerned that the country’s manufacturers had been operating one of the largest automotive cartels in history. With many auto executives still under the microscope for diesel emission manipulation, combined with inter-familial strife between the Piech and Porsche clans, Germany’s auto industry was starting to resemble a PG version of the film Goodfellas — with a dash of Dallas, for flavor.

Despite some rather serious accusations, nothing really came of the cartel investigation. We were beginning to wonder if it was much ado about nothing. But Germany’s antitrust officials hadn’t forgotten — they were simply biding their time during preliminary investigations into corporate collusion and price-fixing. Earlier this week, they made their big move and raided BMW’s headquarters.  (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2017

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK. Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz.

After a pair of Mercedes-Benz engines garnered increased scrutiny from regulatory agencies, the German government has summoned executives from Daimler to account for its activities as a new diesel emissions probe picks up steam.

The automaker has confirmed several of its representatives are attending a hearing on Thursday afternoon to speak with the German Transport Ministry — just one day after news broke that Stuttgart investigators believed some diesel-powered Mercedes vehicles may have been equipped with defeat devices between 2008 and 2016.

The investigation centers around the OM642 V6 and OM651 inline-four turbo-diesels, both of which are under suspicion of being equipped with illegal technology used to circumvent emissions testing. Interesting, Mercedes gave up on certifying diesel-driven vehicles in the United States this year after four models Benz had hoped to sell failed to obtain regulatory approval.  (Read More…)

By on May 11, 2017

Matthias Müller, Image: Volkswagen AG/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller is under investigation in Germany over the possibility he withheld important information on the company’s emissions scandal to investors, as well as potential market manipulation relating to Porsche. While public prosecutors continued to broaden their search among high-ranking company officials, the inclusion of the CEO is a bit of a surprise.

It was widely believed Müller would be free from scrutiny as he was appointed to replace ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn shortly after the emissions scandal went public in September 2015. Initially, German investigators even stated the CEO was not suspected of any wrongdoing. Then, in March of 2017, prosecutors launched a raid that seized the mobile phones, electronic passwords, appointment books, and email files of numerous Volkswagen and Audi employees — including Müller.  (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2017

Exhaust pipe of running vehicle, Image: By Ruben de Rijcke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Office of the Inspector General is preparing to conduct preliminary research to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal controls are effective at detecting and preventing emissions fraud.

While the EPA has proven itself capable of stopping cheaters in the past, the federal oversight group wants to check in on the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Office of Transportation and Air Quality in Washington D.C.

This investigation comes amid the current administration’s proposal of a 25 percent reduction in the EPA’s $8 billion budget, the elimination of almost 3,000 jobs, and the suspension of agency-backed programs and departments — including the environmental justice office. Automakers are also begging President Trump to rollback emissions standards after 2016 ended up being the first year since 2004 that U.S. light vehicles did not exceeded the industry-wide fuel economy targets. Regardless of intent, any appraisal of the EPA’s ability to act effectively will either serve to validate its existence or help rationalize its dismantlement.  (Read More…)

By on September 27, 2015

Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept

While the EPA recently revealed Volkswagen’s diesels were cheating emissions tests, two newspapers learned VW was warned about cheating as early as 2007.

(Read More…)

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