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Former UAW VP Jewell Charged by Feds in FCA-UAW Scandal

He's the highest ranking UAW official charged.

by Michael Strong on Mar.18, 2019

Norwood Jewell, left, is the highest ranking UAW official to be charged in the ongoing investigation into the theft of UAW-FCA training funds.

Just days after rallying the troops in Detroit for the upcoming contract negotiations, the UAW received another black eye as former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell was charged Monday by federal prosecutors for violating the Labor Management Relations Act.

Jewell, according to court documents, allegedly received more than $40,000 in travel, lodging and meals between 2014 and 2016 from people working for Fiat Chrysler.

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He is the latest in a string of FCA and UAW executives and family members who have been indicted or convicted in the FBI investigation. Representatives from the FBI and the UAW have been available for comment. (more…)

BMW Reassigns Key Management Responsibilities

Moves designed to make company leaner.

by Joseph Szczesny on Mar.18, 2019

BMW's Harald Krueger noted the company's recent shuffling of executives should make the company leaner and more competitive.

The BMW Group is reorganizing its Board of Management to create what Is described as a new leaner, future-oriented management structure.

“We are restructuring our divisions to give us the best possible foundation for the future. It sends out a clear signal that our organization is lean and efficient throughout the company,” said Harald Krüger, chairman of the BMW AG Board of Management, speaking in Munich on Friday.

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The moves come at a time when carmakers the world over are facing sweeping change and major financial pressures. In fact, BMW recently announced plans to alliance with archrival Mercedes-Benz to address technical issues with autonomous vehicles. German carmakers, such as BMW, also are still reeling from a losing bet on diesel technology that has cost them dearly. (more…)

Trump Smacks GM With New Lordstown Plant Tweet

After a quiet three weeks, President takes another swipe at automaker.

by Joseph Szczesny on Mar.18, 2019

President Donald Trump took another swipe in a tweet at GM about the closure of Lordstown.

General Motors was again the target of a tweet by President Donald Trump, which pushed the automaker to reverse its decision to shutter an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which is located in the state’s politically sensitive northeastern corner.

Trump attacked GM after it first announced the decision to close Lordstown and returned to twitter this weekend with a tweet that urged the company to reopen the plant. The Presidential tweet came 10 days after the Lordstown plant built its last Chevrolet Cruze, ending U.S. production of the compact of the car.

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However, the timing of tweet suggested that Trump was concerned less about the fate of Lordstown than the optics surrounding another key decision Trump is expected to make in the next few weeks on a key trade issue. That said, Lordstown and GM promises to remain an issue through the 2020 Presidential election when Ohio is once again a pivotal battleground state. (more…)

Toyota CEO “Sad” About Being Declared “National Security Threat,” But Plans $3B More in U.S. Investments

Tariffs actually could backfire and see investment plan cut back, warns top Toyota official.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Mar.15, 2019

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda called the prospect of his company being called a "national security threat" by the Trump administration "sad."

Toyota plans to boost by $3 billion its investment in the U.S. market, a decision that comes as the automaker – and other foreign-based brands – are facing the possibility of huge new tariffs from an American president who has labeled them a “national security threat.”

That designation is something that “makes feel sad,” Akio Toyoda, the Japanese giant’s CEO, said during an appearance at the Economic Club of Washington. “I hope that this kind of conversation can go away,” the grandson of Toyota’s founder said through an interpreter.

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Separately, the head of Toyota’s North American operations cautioned that those planned investments, which include $749 million to upgrade existing plants in five states, could be cut back if the Trump administration moves ahead with tariffs, something experts have warned could actually result in lower U.S. car sales and a sharp loss of automotive jobs. (more…)

Safety Advocates Push for Adoption of Drunk Driving Deterrents

Groups pushing for installation of devices in new vehicles.

by Michael Strong on Mar.15, 2019

Former NHTSA Chief Joan Claybrook is leading the charge for ignition interlock devices to prevent drunk driving.

Safety advocates and other groups are looking to add some momentum to new ignition interlock technology that would prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel and driving, saving thousands of lives annually.

Joan Claybrook, a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), urged Congress to pass a law forcing automakers to include passive ignition-interlock systems in all new motor vehicles within as little as three years.

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“I don’t know what’s the matter with the industry on this issue,” Claybrook said during testimony Thursday before the House consumer protection and commerce subcommittee. (more…)

Mustang Electrified?

Ford counter-programs debut of the Tesla Model Y and hints of a high-performance CUV to come.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Mar.15, 2019

“Hold your horses,” or so said Ford Motor Co. in a tweet not-so-coincidentally timed to reach the social media world just as Tesla CEO Elon Musk was getting ready to debut his company’s new Model Y battery-electric SUV.

The Ford post featured that short blurb and a blue version of the Mustang logo against a black background, nothing more. But it does hint at several projects that Ford has already confirmed are in the works. That includes both a hybridized version of the pony car, as well as a Mustang-influenced all-electric SUV that Ford announced during the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Electrifying News!

An early player in the electrification field, Ford has fallen behind not just Tesla but conventional rivals like General Motors and Volkswagen, both investing heavily in long-range, battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs. Ford officials say they are going to make a push to catch up and have confirmed that the first entry into next-gen electric technology would be a performance-oriented crossover tentatively named Mach 1 and due to market about when the Tesla Model Y hits the street about a year from now.

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SEC Suing VW, former CEO, for ”Massive Fraud” in Emissions Cheating Scandal

Lawsuit "legally and factually flawed," the automaker responds.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Mar.15, 2019

Former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn faces legal problems in Germany, as well as the U.S.

Volkswagen’s ongoing efforts to end a scandal triggered by its cheating on diesel emissions testing just took a turn for the worse, the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing both the automaker and former CEO Martin Winterkorn of committing a “massive fraud” on U.S. investors.

The automaker has acknowledged it used “defeat devices” to rig its diesel engines to illegally pass emissions tests and has so far laid out over $30 billion in fines and settlements. It is still facing other legal headaches, including a separate lawsuit by investors and ongoing investigations in Europe, one resulting in the arrest and jailing of the former CEO of its Audi subsidiary. But it responded to the latest challenge by declaring the SEC lawsuit “legally and factually flawed.”

Breaking News!

The SEC lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, claims the automaker and former CEO Winterkorn concealed the depth of the scandal – and the potential penalties – from both investors and federal regulators. The Thursday complaint noted that in the year before the cheating was discovered and publicized by the EPA Volkswagen issued $13 billion in bonds and securities in the U.S. Those value of those financial devices were directly impacted once the carmaker’s subterfuge was revealed.

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As Tesla Model Y Debuts, Musk Asks: Do You Think We’re “S3XY”?

New Model Y to be offered in four distinct versions – but economy buyers will have to wait.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Mar.15, 2019

The Tesla Model Y is likely to look quite familiar to fans of the earlier Model 3 sedan.

The long-awaited Tesla Model Y made its formal debut on Thursday night, with CEO Elon Musk declaring it takes an already attractive line-up and makes it “S3XY.” The inside joke adds the new electric SUV to the automaker’s existing line-up of Models S, 3 and X.

But there’s a serious side to the launch. Tesla continues to struggle to right its balance sheet, plunging back into the red this quarter after earning money during the second half of 2018. The Model Y is expected to become Tesla’s best-seller, Musk declared, telling his audience “we’ll do more Model Ys than S, X and 3 combined.” And that includes not just the U.S. but also China, where Tesla is struggling to get a foothold in the world’s largest market for battery-electric vehicles.

Breaking Product News!

The Model Y will be one of the vehicles Tesla plans to produce once it opens up a new plant in Shanghai later this year. That will give it a way to hold costs down and also to sidestep any escalation in the U.S.-China trade war.

(Here’s our Model Y preview. Click Here to see how close we came.)

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What to Expect When Tesla’s Model Y Rolls Out

New electric-SUV could double sales of Model 3.

by Paul A. Eisenstein on Mar.14, 2019

The Model Y debuts tonight and will be more expensive than the Model 3.

In a market where SUVs and CUVs have overwhelmed traditional sedans and coupes, there’s a yawning gap in the Tesla line-up that the upstart automaker intends to fill in the months ahead.

And the process will begin this evening when CEO Elon Musk pulls the wraps off the Tesla Model Y. Set to become the fourth product in the automaker’s portfolio, the battery-SUV could outsell all existing Tesla products combined, at least if a recent forecast by CEO Elon Musk proves accurate.

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“We will probably see higher volumes for Model Y than Model 3, (perhaps) double,” the 47-year-old exec said during a late January conference call with auto analysts and journalists. (more…)

Porsche Grabs Top Score in Power Customer Service Index

Buick takes top honors in non-premium segment.

by Michael Strong on Mar.14, 2019

Porsche took first place in JD Power's 2019 Customer Satisfaction Index, ahead of Lexus and Cadillac.

Communication is key to the success or failure of any relationship, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the service department of an auto dealership.

Auto dealers that communicate the best, i.e. the way consumers want, finished atop J.D. Power’s new Customer Service Index ranking. This year, that means Porsche, Lexus and Cadillac took the top three spots in the luxury car rankings.

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In the mainstream results, Buick, Mini and somewhat surprisingly, Mitsubishi took the first three spots. Mitsubishi’s third-place finish came as a result of the greatest improvement (27 points) in the entire study year-over-year. (more…)