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20 Japanese auto supplier execs on the lam from US authorities?

Posted Nov 24th 2014 9:34AM

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Antitrust Law Enforcement Action

The US Department of Justice has been on a campaign over the past few years to crack down on price fixing in the auto industry, especially from Japanese parts suppliers. In the agency's most recent count, it has indicted 46 people with 26 guilty pleas and raised over $2.4 billion in fines from 31 companies, including nine at once in 2013. Unfortunately, about 20 of these men remain fugitives from the DoJ and catching them might be very difficult.

As a perfect illustration of the problem, the DoJ indicted Hiroya Hirose from NSK Ltd. and Masakazu Iwami from Jtekt Corporation on November 13 for alleged price fixing against Toyota. Both men face up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, if found guilty in the US. However, neither of them may ever set foot behind bars, let alone even make it to US soil to stand trial. According to an investigation by Automotive News, Hirose is still employed at NSK in Japan and is the section head of one of its automotive units. This is despite being a fugitive in the eyes of US law enforcement. Although, this is among the most brazen examples. When contacted by AN, some of the other companies said the indicted executives no longer worked there.

The conundrum facing the DoJ is how to get the men extradited here to actually be tried. According to Automotive News, a conviction for price fixing in Japan carries no jail time. The feds can't just send bounty hunters across the Pacific to round these execs up, either. Bringing them over requires consent by the Japanese government, and it's loath to ship citizens to a foreign country to face a much harsher penalty.

There doesn't appear to be a great solution to getting these men to the US, but the DoJ still has plenty of work to do against the price fixing of automotive parts. One recent report claimed that the problem goes well beyond just Japan. Even if the agency can't get these men, there are other targets to go after.

News Source: Automotive News - sub. req., US Department of Justice

Image Credit: Kris Connor / Getty Images

Ferrari replaces F1 boss with Marlboro exec

Posted Nov 24th 2014 8:45AM

F1 Ferrari Team Principal

Ferrari just finished its worst Formula One season in decades, and if you're thinking heads are going to roll, you're right. In fact they already have, as team principal Stefano Domenicali was dismissed earlier this year and longtime chairman Luca di Montezemolo was axed just two months ago. Now Maranello has announced a new team principal, yet again.

Instead of promoting from within, however, this time Ferrari has called in an outside executive – albeit one with whom it is intimately familiar. His name is Maurizio Arrivabene, and he's served as a senior executive at tobacco giant Philip Morris International, managing (among other areas) the Marlboro brand's sponsorship of the Scuderia. In that capacity he's been sitting on the FIA's Formula One Commission as the sponsors' representative since 2010, giving him a familiarity with how the series is run.

In his new capacity as Managing Director of the Gestione Sportiva and Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari, Arrivabene replaces Marco Mattiacci, who was called up to the post from his previous position as head of the North American office just eight months ago. Back then Mattiacci replaced a similarly under-performing Domenicali. The change may very well have come at the behest (if not insistence) of Philip Morris, which remains the team's main sponsor and is undoubtedly displeased with Ferrari's performance lately. It wouldn't be the first time. After all, Marlboro similarly brokered the deal that put Ron Dennis in charge of McLaren in the early 1980s.

Mattiacci's swift replacement comes at the end of a disastrous season for the Scuderia. Following yesterday's season finale in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari finished fourth in the constructors' standings behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams. The last time it finished the championship in such poor shape was in 2010 when Felipe Massa was injured and the team scrambled to find a replacement. But even then it managed to win at least one race and land on the podium another five times. Fernando Alonso finished on the podium only twice this season while Kimi Raikkonen struggled further back. This year marked the first time Ferrari failed to win a grand prix since 1993, and even then Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger managed more podiums than the team scored this season.

News Source: Ferrari

Image Credit: Luca Bruno/AP

Force India confirms Sergio Perez in multi-year contract

Posted Nov 24th 2014 8:00AM

Sergio Perez

The last few seats are being taken in the grand game of musical chairs that ensues at the end of any Formula One season. The latest announcement comes from Force India, which has confirmed that it's keeping Sergio Perez in place not just for next season, but for the next several years.

This weekend in Abu Dhabi, Perez completed his fourth season in Formula One. After success in British Formula Three and GP2, the Mexican driver debuted with Sauber in 2011, switched to McLaren in 2013 and to Force India for the season now drawing to a close – notably landing on the podium in Bahrain.

That was only the second podium finish the team has ever seen, following Giancarlo Fisichella's second-place finish at Spa in 2009. The team now sits sixth in the standings, tying its position last year and in 2011. The high point for the team came when it was still known as Jordan Grand Prix, finishing the 1999 championship in third place on the back of two checkered flags and four more podiums claimed by Heinz-Harald Frentzen (while his World Champion teammate, Damon Hill, languished in his final season on the grid).

Perez will partner once again with Nico Hulkenberg next season. The announcement leaves only the future of Caterham, one seat at Toro Rosso and the decision from McLaren on Fernando Alonso's wingman still left open as this season draws to a close.

News Source: Force India

Watch this Chinese stunt driver parallel park with only 3 inches to spare

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 7:00PM

Parallel Parking Video

Whenever this writer thinks of fancy parking jobs, we go straight to Buddy Love singing Strokin' in a red Dodge Viper he slides into a tiny space in The Nutty Professor. But after watching the video above, we might have to start thinking about Han Yue, who broke the world record for getting into the tightest parallel parking space. The previous record was set in July 2013 by Alastair Moffatt, who had 3.4 inches to spare between his car and those around. Yue used a Mini Cooper at the China Drift Championship in Chongqing, China, to shrink that gap to 3.15 inches.

That gave Yue two world records at the same event: the day before, he used a BMW M4 to set the world record for doing the most donuts around a car driving on two wheels. Which, frankly, we didn't even know was a competitive thing...

News Source: Guinness World Records via YouTube

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL

Chevy Sail 3 lands in China

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 5:00PM

The Chevrolet Sail, front three-quarter view.

Shanghai General Motors took 32 cars to this year's Guangzhou Motor Show, with its Chevrolet Sail 3 leading the way. After putting almost 1.4 million of them into Chinese hands, the third generation of the Bowtie's entry-level sedan wants to "take the nameplate and the segment to a new level." Its new architecture sporting a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase supports a growth spurt of two inches in length and 1.8 inches in width. The exterior also gets "eagle eye-shaped" headlights and "dual-c-element taillights."

Under the hood will be either a 1.5-liter DVVT or a 1.3-liter VVT, each of them more powerful and more frugal than previous offerings. Both can be paired with a manual or an automatic transmission, and qualify for listing in China's National Energy-Saving and Eco-Friendly Vehicle Catalogue, as well as a 3,000 renminbi rebate ($490 US).

You can read more about it in the press release below, and get more info on the Chevrolet Camaro RS Limited Edition, Corvette Stingray Coupe, Buick Regal GS and Excelle XT also introduced at the show.

News Source: Chevrolet

US driver data privacy laws aren't strict enough for EU

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 2:59PM

Switzerland Geneva Motor Show

In October the Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manfuacturers informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that they were working together on a set of privacy protection guidelines for drivers. The privacy concerns the data collected by modern automobiles, like vehicle location, biometrics or infotainment usage, that automakers use to "enable a better overall driving experience." Even though the information is anonymized, the fear is that – without any protections – using it can lead to messy interactions with business aims and cloud how information will be exchanged as vehicle-to-vehicle technology increases.

This month, the two groups issued a 13-page paper called "Consumer Privacy Protection Principles" laying out a framework for collecting and safeguarding data, saying that it "goes beyond similar principles in other industry sectors," and, "Vigilance over the privacy of our customers and the security of vehicle systems is an imperative." According to a German attorney, however, the protections use vague language that wouldn't satisfy current European regulations. At issue are phrases like "reasonable business purposes" to describe when collecting data is acceptable, and the fact that just using the vehicle is de facto consent to data collection.

That latter point is also a problem for Senator Edward Markey, who believes drivers should not just be made aware of their personal information being stored but should be able to opt-out of having it stored at all.

Nissan's London Black Cab postponed because it can't meet emissions targets

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 1:03PM

Nissan NV200 Black Cab

Emissions concerns in London are causing headaches for Nissan, as the company continues its efforts to bring its Black Cab to the city's streets. A proposed ultra-low emissions zone could lead to standards in the city center that are so strict the gas-powered taxi can't meet them, AutoExpress reports.

It's unclear just how low the new emissions standards may be, although AE references London's mayor, Boris Johnson, and his drive to make every London taxi emissions-free by 2018 as a particular thorn for the Japanese automaker.

It's worth noting that the NV200 taxi is both cleaner and more fuel efficient than London's current fleet of iconic black cabs. That alone makes it seem like reason enough to get the new cabs on the streets. But it's the strictness of the proposed standards and the apparently set-in-stone nature of the NV200's current engineering that is holding up the cab's future.

While Nissan offers an emissions-free e-NV200, it would reportedly need to completely reengineer the NV200-based cab to meet the future standards if they're approved.

Whether that will happen, though, remains an open question.
Related GalleryNissan NV200 London Taxi
Nissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London TaxiNissan NV200 London Taxi

News Source: AutoExpress

Image Credit: Nissan

Audi Quattro concept production hopes still alive, could be more radical

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 10:58AM

The Audi Sport Quattro Concept at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, front three-quarter view.

The 2010 Audi Quattro Concept, front three-quarter view.Remember the gestation period of the Lexus LFA, the one that, in automotive time, took so long that its origins could have been carbon dated? We feel like it's déja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would have said, this time featuring the Audi Quattro and Audi Sport Quattro. It was 2010 when our cameras first glimpsed the Audi Quattro Concept (pictured right) at the Paris Motor Show, and we tasted its turbocharged 2.5-liter, five-cylinder powerplant not long after.

Last year we met the hybrid, 700-horsepower Audi Sport Quattro concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show, but we got no closer to finding out if there'd ever be a version we could buy. A report in Autocar keeps the flame of hope burning, quoting Audi design chief Marc Lichte at the LA Auto Show saying, "We are working on Quattro, it is still alive." Lichte went on to say, however, that the next imagining is "more extreme" than those we've seen, and, "There will be surprises."

Those words alone are a surprise. The last we heard about the Quattro revival was Audi boss Ulrich Hackenberg saying he wanted a more accessible homage to the original, and we don't know how "more extreme" jives with that. Seeing that Audi is serious about the idea, at least, we shouldn't have to wait long to find out. Just don't get your hopes up about its affordability yet.

News Source: Autocar

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL

Mercedes AMG GT3 racecar due in 2016

Posted Nov 23rd 2014 9:01AM

The 2016 Mercedes AMG GT S, front three-quarter view.

Our life with the Mercedes-AMG GT has only just begun, and a full life it looks like it will be. The latest in preposterous two-doors from AMG is launching in GT and GT S flavors, but a few more branches of the family tree are already planned: a racing entry for the FIA GT3 championship is scheduled to appear in 2016, giving the current SLS AMG GT3 another year to gobble up victories before it takes a drive across the Styx.

More exciting for those who only suit up on Sunday for church, whispers are that a we'll also get a streetable version of the race car - not called "GT3" because that alphanumeric is owned by Porsche, but definitely aimed at its Stuttgart rival. AMG boss Tobias Moers told Autocar the objective for that car is "more power, less weight, better aerodynamics and different suspension but the targets should be the power to weight ratio, drivability, lap time and tremendous feel." Those targets will be aided by a carbon fiber weight-loss regime of up to 220 pounds and more power - perhaps 550 horsepower - from the currently "very understressed" engine.

Supposing that still isn't enough for you, then the Black Series version should curl your toes, if you can wait until 2018 for it.

News Source: Top Gear

Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Seyth Miersma / AOL

Watch Ford build a Mustang atop Burj Khalifa, world's tallest building

Posted Nov 22nd 2014 7:03PM

Ford Mustang at top of Burj Khalifa

In 1965, a Ford Mustang Convertible proudly went on display at the top of the Empire State Building, the world's tallest building at the time. Earlier this year, the Blue Oval recreated the stunt by bringing the latest droptop 'Stang to the sky-high structure during the New York Auto Show. Unfortunately, while still iconic, the New York skyscraper has lost the world title. Of course, an automaker can't let something like that get in the way of a good publicity stunt.

For the inauguration of the Ford business unit in the Middle East and Africa, the brand gave the 2015 Mustang Convertible an even bigger building to climb – the biggest in fact. The droptop made its way to the 112th floor of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. To put a final topper on the whole event, executive chairman Bill Ford was the one to affix the car's famous badge, making it complete.

Like with the Empire State Building spectacle, getting the Mustang to the top wasn't as simple as just driving it off the elevator. Check out the video above to see how it was done, and scroll down to read Ford's press release about the event.

News Source: Ford, Ford Middle East via YouTube

Will states start to prevent you from registering cars that have pending recalls?

Posted Nov 22nd 2014 5:00PM

Air Bag Recall

The impact of 2014 – henceforth known as Year of the Recalls – will have long-ranging consequences on the auto industry. One of the biggest changes, though, might not be in the way manufacturers inform the government of pending recalls or in the way Uncle Sam punishes automakers that violate its rules, but in the ability to sell cars with pending recalls. And strangely enough, the charge is being led by an automaker.

Honda Executive Vice President Rick Schostek, pictured above, argued during a meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee that the government needs to take a role in mandating that consumers have recall services performed. That could include withholding registration for vehicles with pending recalls, Bloomberg reports. Honda is just one of the automakers currently embroiled in the massive Takata airbag recall.

"It's a good idea," safety advocate Clarence Ditlow said, according to Bloomberg. "California won't give you a registration if you have an emissions recall. Why not a safety recall?"

"Honda is going to use any innovative tools to find customers and get these recalls done," Schostek told the Transportation Committee. The exec, aside from echoing Ditlow's viewpoint, also argued for requiring dealerships and garages to inform vehicle owners of incomplete recalls, regardless of the service provided. Schostek also made an argument that state governments could step in, as well.

Whatever ends up happening, it's fair to say that between Takata and General Motors, the future of recalls for American consumers are set for significant changes.

News Source: Bloomberg

Image Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Land Rover to lodge complaint with China over LandWind's Evoque copycat

Posted Nov 22nd 2014 2:59PM

LandWind X7

Despite its position as a communist state, the People's Republic of China has taken a decidedly laissez-faire attitude towards copyright infringement. It's why, as evidenced in an old episode of Top Gear, you can buy a fake Omega, wear fake Ray-Bans, talk on a fake iPhone and drink at a fake Starbucks. It's also why Chinese automakers so shamelessly rip off the designs of western automobiles (exhibits A, B, C, D and E). Land Rover is the latest automaker to take exception to this practice.

The Indian-owned, British-made off-road brand is calling out the Chinese over the LandWind X7 which, like all good fakes, is a remarkably close approximation of the real thing, that goes for a lot less money. In this case, the Range Rover Evoque, which the X7 apes, sells for 40,000 pounds ($62,000 at today's rates) Autocar reports, while the Chinese version will retail for a meager 14,000 quid ($22,000).

With the X7 making its debut at the Guangzhou Motor Show, Land Rover Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ralf Speth opted to take a strong stance, issuing a resolute statement against LandWind's new SUV to Autocar:

"The fact that this kind of copying is ongoing in China is very disappointing. The simple principal is that it is not something that should happen; the intellectual property is owned by Jaguar Land Rover and if you break that IP then you are in breach of international regulations that apply around the world.

As a company we have invested heavily in China with our joint venture partner Chery. That commitment is based on a clear business plan, that allows us to hit our sales targets at clear prices. Anything that damages the potential profitability of our plant damages the integrity of those plans.

I will talk to our officials and I will talk to our partners at Chery to find a way around this situation. I cannot imagine Chinese officials will be happy at any actions that undermine the credibility of the country. What we have seen today is not correct."

According to Autocar, LandWind is a joint venture between two of China's larger automakers – Changan Auto and Jiangling Motors – which count Peugeot-Citroen and Ford as their JV partners, respectively. It's unclear how, or even if, any action by Land Rover could impact the two Chinese companies' partners.
Related GalleryLandWind X7
LandWind X7LandWind X7LandWind X7LandWind X7LandWind X7LandWind X7LandWind X7LandWind X7

News Source: Autocar

Image Credit: Indian Autos Blog, Copyright 2014 AOL

Feds chastise Marchionne over Jeep recall, only 13% repaired so far

Posted Nov 22nd 2014 1:00PM

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Following the significant outcry surrounding the General Motors and Takata airbag safety crises this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seems to be taking a much more aggressive role in pushing owners to repair their recalled vehicles. In the agency's latest move, it's urging Jeep drivers to get their models fixed. Acting NHTSA administrator David Friedman even sent a letter to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne pressing him to get more of the SUVs fixed.

The problem goes back to the recall of the 2002-2007 Liberty and 1993-1998 Grand Cherokee because of the possibility for the fuel tank to rupture in some rear crashes. The campaign affected over 1.5 million vehicles, but Chrysler initially refused NHTSA's request for a repair campaign. The automaker eventually came up with a fix that involved adding a trailer hitch to provide extra protection to the tank. The feds believe the danger "will be reduced by the remedy now offered by Chrysler," according to the statement.

However, this latest push comes out of NHTSA's concern that only three percent of the affected vehicles are repaired, although Chrysler maintains some 13.4 percent have actually been fixed. The agency is asking the automaker to reach out to owners "proactively," and get them to bring the Jeeps in dealers. According to the the feds' statement, the company "has nearly 400,000 parts available" to perform the fixes, and it's still producing more.

Friedman's letter to Marchionne goes even further, alleging NHTSA has received reports that dealers are turning customers away who request the recall. He asks the CEO to prove within 15 days that these claims are false. "Given the low rates of repair that Chrysler has reported more than a year after the recall, significantly more aggressive steps are required," says a portion of the note.

According to The Detroit News, Chrysler has subsequently promised to speed up the recall work, vowing that all dealers will have at least 12 repair kits in stock by Monday. Further, it has announced plans to ramp up its notification campaign with Facebook ads and public service announcements.

Scroll down to read NHTSA's full statement on the matter, and Friedman's letter to Marchionne can be read in PDF format, here.

News Source: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, [2], The Detroit News

Image Credit: Jeep

Weekly Recap: Racing legend Jim Hall explains Chevy's futuristic Chaparral concept

Plus: Vettel Set To Join Ferrari, Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Launches In 2016 And Lincoln Adds Black Label Line

Posted Nov 22nd 2014 11:00AM

Chevy Chaparral Gran Turismo Concept

"I said our cars are built to be winners." – Jim Hall

Racing legend Jim Hall never thought he'd be a video game consultant, but when Chevrolet asked for his advice to create a futuristic Chaparral for the Vision Gran Turismo series, he was eager to help.

He reviewed early sketches and suggested some changes that made it onto the concept, including the addition of a camera that's mounted onto a mast over the cabin to aid the driver.

The Chevy Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Turismo concept was revealed this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show and will be part of a downloadable update for PlayStation 3's Gran Turismo 6 in December. Theoretically, at least, it uses a laser-beam propulsion system and an air-powered generator to produce 900 horsepower in the video game. It's capable of sprinting to 60 miles per hour in 1.5 seconds en route to a top speed of 240 mph.

Image Credit: Live photos copyright 2014 Drew Phillips / AOL, Getty Images, Toyota, Lincoln

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