By on May 17, 2018

Following the private sale of his Ford GT, superstar wrestler John Cena found himself looking down the barrel of the automaker’s legal team. Ford had publicized that the chosen recipients of the exclusive model were forbidden from selling it within the first two years of taking delivery. Cena was in breach of contract, or so it initially seemed.

Things became murky when the former “Doctor of Thuganomics” had his legal council point out that the dealer’s sales agreement included no such clause. The matter is now before the courts, with Ford seeking damages and Cena asking for dismissal.

Keeping that in mind, it’s more than a little surprising that another second-generation GT is being offered for sale just a few months later. The vehicle in question is number 48 out of 250 from the 2017 model year — and it’s currently up for auction in Indianapolis.  (Read More…)

By on December 15, 2017

General Motors HQ

General Motors has decided to cut ties with Alphons Iacobelli, the former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles labor relations chief accused of embezzling funds earmarked for worker training. That money is believed to have gone into extensive home renovations, the installation of a pool, personal credit card expenses, the leasing of a private jet, a $350,000 Ferrari 458 Spider, and two Mont Blanc pens worth $37,500 each.

While GM suspended Iacobelli in July (after federal officials charged him for his alleged role in a multi-million dollar criminal conspiracy during his time at FCA), it only recently confirmed his departure from the company.  (Read More…)

By on November 30, 2017

driving with dog
There are few things that offer the same kind of trivial gratification as a photograph of a dog behind the wheel of an automobile. Assaulting several different pleasure centers of the brain simultaneously, the image of a dog driving a car is objectively perfect. Even thinking about it just now probably caused a positive reaction in your mind.

It’s as endearing as it is hilarious. Subaru developed an entire ad campaign around the concept and other groups have used similar tactics — resulting in viral videos and critical acclaim. However, as great as a dog pretending to drive a car is, there are few things less infuriating than when someone allows their dog to sit on their lap whilst operating a motor vehicle.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this opinion, as a bill has been introduced to crack down on this highly specific form of distracted driving.  (Read More…)

By on November 13, 2017

cars dealer dealership, Image: HappyAlex/Bigstock

Roughly 8,000 U.S. dealers will share in a $335 million payday resulting from a colossal 2010 antitrust investigation. The issue? Suppliers were involved in a widespread price-fixing scheme that lasted decades, and nobody noticed until the FBI raided the offices of Yazaki North America Inc., Denso International America Inc. and Tokai Rika Group North America.

In the end, 65 individuals and 47 companies were charged by the Justice Department — resulting in over $2.9 billion in fines and jail time for a swath of fresh white-collar criminals.

However, none of that money made it to manufacturers, dealers, parts retailers, or consumers. Those players had to resort to filing civil suits in federal court against the companies. In 2012, the multitude of claims were consolidated and transferred to Judge Marianne Battani and the U.S. District Court in Detroit. Over $1 billion has been set aside for affected parties, with around $335 million of the sum going to dealerships.  (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 9, 2017

2015 Porsche Cayenne S
Porsche is apparently seeking 200 million euros — or $234 million — in damages from its Audi stablemate over the costs associated with using its emissions cheating diesel engines. According to reports, Porsche has already issued its claim to Audi and the wheels of justice have been set in motion.

With no verified sources or official word from either automaker, the news is more than just a little strange considering both manufacturers are part of Volkswagen Group. However, Audi did supply both Porsche and Volkswagen with defeat device-equipped 3.0-liter V6s for use in various models. One of those models was Porsche’s Cayenne, and sales of the TDI variant were shelved as the scandal raged. (Read More…)

By on September 1, 2017

tesla factory fremont, Image: Tesla Motors

The National Labor Relations Board has filed an official complaint against Tesla Motors, saying the company violated workers’ rights by suppressing their efforts to unionize.

While automakers hoping to keep employees from joining a union is nothing new, the NLRB’s issue focuses around an obligatory confidentiality agreement that may have prohibited them from openly discussing their working conditions and safety concerns at the company’s facility in Fremont, California. The agency also investigated allegations from the workers that Tesla intimidated and harassed them, which would be a violation of workers’ rights under federal labor law.

Meanwhile, Tesla has decided not to take any of this sitting down. The electric automaker has issued a scathing response to the complaint by giving the United Auto Workers a piece of its mind.
(Read More…)

By on August 8, 2017

FCA - Auburn Hills

Automotive conspiracies are all the rage right now. However, my current favorite is the cooperative machinations between Fiat Chrysler employees and UAW representatives to embezzle millions from a joint training fund.

On Tuesday, former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden entered a guilty plea at a hearing in federal courtroom in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Durden aims to cooperate with prosecutors (in exchange for a reduced sentence) as they build their case against other conspirators — specifically Alfons Iacobelli, FCA’s former head of labor relations, and Monica Morgan, widow of General Holiefield, the UAW’s former head of its Chrysler division.

The pair are alleged to have the siphoned over a million dollars from the FCA-UAW Joint Training Center between 2009 and 2014, blowing the majority of it on home expansions, fancy cars, first-class plane tickets, and extravagant baubles. Meanwhile, Durden was caught failing to file a tax return for the approximately $4,000 he received in 2013. Oh, and for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. (Read More…)

By on July 31, 2017

lynk-and-co-01-sedan

Ford Motor Company is finally challenging Geely Holding Group’s trademark application for the Lynk & Co automotive moniker. We’ve been waiting on this one for a while and are a little curious as to why it took Ford so long to realize the Geely-backed brand sounded so similar to Lincoln Motor Company.

While Chinese manufacturers enjoy a rich history of borrowing designs and names from competing automakers, the brunt of their more brazen attempts at thievery exist in the past — probably because they traditionally end up in court. Geely also has the benefit of plausible deniability since the Lynk name is supposed to hint at the vehicle’s unparalleled level of connectivity. It would be reasonable to assume this was a big coincidence.

Still, even if that is the case, nothing is going to halt the corporate litigation train now that it has left Ford Station. (Read More…)

By on July 26, 2017

Chrysler HQ Auburn Hills

Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles labor relations chief Alphons Iacobelli and Monica Morgan, wife of late UAW Vice President General Holiefield, have been charged by a federal grand jury with violating the Labor Management Relations Act.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit, the pair were indicted on Wednesday for corruption after a lengthy joint investigation between the FBI and the IRS.

Iacobelli is accused of acting in the interest of FCA by issuing over $1.2 million in illegal payments and bribes to union members — including Morgan and Holiefield. The former union executive’s untimely death appears to have thrust his widow into the spotlight and saved him the trouble of a lengthy trial.

Morgan is best known for her work as a photographer in Detroit, and for being accidentally shot in the stomach by her husband while he was cleaning his Desert Eagle handgun in 2013. Iacobelli is primarily known for negotiating killer deals with the UAW and an abrupt, scandal-related, retirement in 2015.  (Read More…)

By on July 25, 2017

Volkswagen VW Badge Emblem Logo

Oliver Schmidt, former top executive at Volkswagen’s environmental and engineering center in Michigan, is ready to plead guilty in a U.S. District Court in Detroit next month. Schmidt is charged with 11 felony counts relating to VW’s diesel emissions scandal and may be eligible for a maximum sentence of 169 years, according to federal prosecutors.

While the trial isn’t scheduled until August 4th, a spokesman for the court indicated the former-VW executive is seeking a plea deal. The details of the bargain are currently unknown, but it’s likely to involve a reduced sentence in exchange of information on the scandal’s murky history.  (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2017

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous car division Waymo, formerly Google, abandoned three of four patent-infringement claims in its lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. in a surprise move on Friday.

Earlier, U.S. District Judge William Alsup specifically asked Waymo to narrow its more than 100 trade secrets claims to fewer than 10 if they ever wanted to place them in front of a jury. During a June 7th hearing, he also said, “I want to reiterate to the plaintiff here that you should think a lot about just dropping the patent part of this case.”

Waymo listened and dumped the majority of its patent claims to focus more heavily on the trade secret issues surrounding the 14,000 files stolen by ex-employee Anthony Levandowski — which is, perhaps, the only thing the two companies can agree upon. Uber is glad to see the focus shift back onto Levandowski, who has been at the core of the case since day one. Now it only has to prove it didn’t pay for access to the data instead of spending time differentiating its own designs from Waymo’s.  (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2017

VW logo, Image: Volkswagen

Throughout the entirety of Volkswagen’s diesel emission scandal, the automaker has changed its tune on several occasions. After evading scrutiny from regulators for years, it finally admitted to installing illegal defeat devices designed to fool U.S. emission testing in late 2015. However, it assured the public that no high-ranking executive had complete knowledge of the misdeed until news of the scandal broke to outraged consumers.

Obviously, that was a lie. But no damning evidence came out indicating anyone above mid-level management had prior knowledge of the devices or any idea they would be so harmful to the company. But now a Volkswagen manager arrested earlier this year claims the automaker’s former chief executive and other top managers had been told the carmaker’s diesel emissions violations could cost up to $18.5 billion, well before the September 2015 announcement.  (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2017

 

Porsche Leipzig Plant - Image: PorscheWhile the United States concluded its investigation into Volkswagen Group’s diesel emissions scandal months ago, the wheels of justice turn appear to turn more slowly in Germany.

Prosecutors in Stuttgart have launched a preliminary investigation into employees at Porsche to assess whether they were involved in designing any of the company’s emissions-cheating software. Porsche is the latest addition in a governmental probe against Volkswagen Group. German prosecutors have already launched a formal investigation against the core brand and Audi.

Prosecutor Jan Holzner explained on Thursday, however, that the Porsche inquiry was not yet a formal investigation. The same could not be said of managers at Bosch, who Holzner believes may have had a role in aiding and abetting Volkwagen’s emissions fraud.  (Read More…)

By on June 26, 2017

Airbags

The impending bankruptcy of Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. has been teased at and speculated upon for months. It was never a question of whether the parts supplier would go belly-up after causing the largest automotive recall in history, but how and when.

After furnishing dozens of automakers with airbag inflators what were, in essence, improvised grenades, the multi-million unit recall has left Takata with little recourse. The company has filed for bankruptcy protection in both Japan and the United States, announcing it will sell off the majority of its remaining assets to Key Safety Systems. One of the missing assets will be the equipment relating to the company’s nefarious ammonium nitrate airbag inflators.

The devices, subject to exploding with far too much force and spraying vehicle interiors with metal shrapnel, are responsible for a minimum of 16 deaths, hundreds of injuries, and the ruination of the company.  (Read More…)

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