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Uber Hires Former US Attorney General Holder for Sex Harassment Investigation

Ride-sharing service facing new boycott threat.

by on Feb.21, 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick called for an expedited investigation of sexual harassment charges by a former engineer at the company.

Facing new calls for a boycott in the face of sexual harassment charges, Uber has hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an “urgent investigation” of charges leveled against the company by former engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti.

Over the weekend, Rigetti posted a blog, titled “Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber,” alleging a climate at Uber that not only discouraged female engineers but showed no interest in pursuing their complaints and concerns through the corporate human resources department.

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The widely reported post came in the wake of a series of other embarrassing setbacks for Uber, including a brief boycott that resulted in thousands of the service’s users deleting their smartphone apps to protest connections between Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and President Donald Trump. New calls for a boycott, using the #DeleteUber hashtag, have emerged since Rigetti’s post began to go viral. (more…)

Tesla Under Scrutiny After Explosive Crash

Investigators question whether fire was result of battery-car design.

by on Feb.20, 2017

Tesla's in the crosshairs again after a Model S exploded in flames after a high-speed collision. The parent of one of the victims blames the car's batteries.

Tesla has come under fire in the wake of an explosive crash in Indianapolis involving a Model S battery-electric vehicle that took the life of a young woman and her boss.

The automaker had previously taken steps to prevent the lithium-ion batteries used in its vehicles from inadvertently catching fire. However, the crash raises questions not only about whether Tesla has gone far enough, but also if Tesla’s battery technology is inherently safe. Lithium-ion chemistry came under close scrutiny last year as a result of fires and meltdowns involving Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.

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“Had she been in another vehicle she would have been alive for me to yell at her for driving after drinking,” Jon Speckman, the father of Casey Speckman, said during an interview with the Indianapolis Star. (more…)

Sex Harassment Claim Raises More Problems for Uber

CEO Kalanick orders “urgent investigation.”

by on Feb.20, 2017

Another firestorm engulfs Uber and CEO Travisk Kalanick orders an "urgent investigation."

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has ordered an “urgent investigation” into claims raised by a female engineer who has gone public about allegedly endemic sexual harassment within the country’s largest ride-sharing service.

In an open statement, Susan Fowler Rigetti described “an organization in complete, unrelenting chaos,” alleging she was propositioned for sex on her very first day on the job, was repeatedly blocked from advancement and found Uber’s human resources department unwilling to take action on sexual harassment claims she and other female employees filed.

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Her blog posting, titled “Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber,” quickly went viral and, by Monday, had generated a response from Kalanick who said in a tweet that “What’s described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in,” adding that “Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”


Hoping to Organize Southern Car Plants, UAW Adopts Pro-Trump Stance

Union backed Clinton in 2016, but now supports president’s “Buy American” campaign.

by on Feb.17, 2017

UAW President Dennis Williams said the union supports President Donald Trump's message of "Buy American."

Politics can make for strange bedfellows. So can union organizing drives.

Traditionally a stalwart force for the Democratic Party, and a major backer of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign last year, the United Auto Workers Union has done something of an about face. At a Thursday news conference in Detroit, UAW boss Dennis Williams offered praise for President Trump – the president’s criticism of Mexican auto production, in particular – and said the union is ready to launch a new “Buy American” ad campaign.

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The union’s position is not entirely surprising. In fact, it reflects the reason why many members reportedly voted for Trump last November. But the shift at UAW headquarters also comes as the union amps up its efforts to organize workers at a number of non-union auto plants, most of them in the South, where organized labor has seldom been welcome – and where candidate Trump far outpolled his Democratic rival for president. (more…)

Lamborghini’s $4M Veneno Recalled For Fire Risk

Just the latest among ultra-exclusive cars to face recall.

by on Feb.16, 2017

Lamborghini Veneno shown during its debut at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

When you’re spending $4 million for an automobile you might expect it to do lots of things, including topping out at more than 200 miles an hour. What you probably wouldn’t expect it to do is go up in flames.

But that’s precisely what could happen, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which has published a recall notice covering all 12 of the 12-cylinder supercars that Lamborghini introduced in 2013 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The government warns that “under certain conditions,” the rare collectible two-seater could catch fire.

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The Lamborghini Veneno may be one of the most expensive automobiles ever recalled, but it is far from the only exotic and exclusive car to face a service action as a result of an unexpected safety defect. That list includes such high-line brands as Aston Martin, Ferrari, Maserati and even Rolls-Royce.


Toyota Shifting Bet from Conventional Hybrids to Plug-Ins

Japanese giant recalls all of its new Mirai hydrogen cars.

by on Feb.15, 2017

The Toyota Prius Prime added a plug this time around, helping the automaker take advantage of the growing trend toward plug-ins.

Toyota, the company that gave the world its first mainstream gasoline-electric vehicle, says it now expects plug-ins to gain traction faster than conventional hybrids.

The revelation by the man known as the “father of the Prius” is the latest in a series of ongoing shifts in Toyota’s approach to green technologies. Long wary of lithium-ion technology, the Japanese maker is putting more emphasis on more advanced battery vehicles, including both plug-ins and pure battery-electric models. It also appears to be growing more cautious about hydrogen power.

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“Mr. Toyoda himself is leading the charge toward more electrification for the company,” said Brian Bolain, U.S. Lexus brand chief. (more…)

Mitsubishi Eclipse Returning – as Crossover

Renamed the Eclipse Cross, it debuts in Geneva.

by on Feb.15, 2017

Mitsubishi is looking to take advantage of the popularity of crossovers with the new Eclipse, which is now called the Eclipse Cross.

After a five-year absence, the Mitsubishi Eclipse is set to make its return – or more precisely, what Mitsubishi will now call the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

And as that slight name change might suggest, the vehicle making its debut at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show will take the form of a compact crossover-utility vehicle, rather than the sporty coupe that was pulled from the market at the end of the 2012 model-year.

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“The Eclipse Cross’s beautiful, dynamic form serves to bring about the same sense of excitement and inspiration as the diamond ring seen immediately before and after a total solar eclipse does,” the maker said, in a florid release teasing next month’s Geneva debut. (more…)

Lexus to Reveal New LS 500h Hybrid in Geneva

New body, new platform, new powertrain.

by on Feb.14, 2017

The new 2018 Lexus LS 500h will make its debut at the Geneva Motor Show next month.

We got our first look at the next-generation Lexus LS during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Now, the automaker says it will roll out the hybrid version of its flagship sedan during the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

Like the gasoline-powered version, the 2018 Lexus LS 500h will adopt a new and much more aggressive body language. But the Japanese luxury brand is keeping mum about what it has in store under that more shapely hood, offering only this one teaser image.

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That said, some details about the new hybrid have begun leaking out. And expectations are that Lexus will try to boost the performance quotient with the new 500h, in keeping with broader market trends, rather than focusing solely on fuel efficiency. (more…)

Smart Going All-Electric in U.S. Market

Minicar brand abandoning gas models after 2017.

by on Feb.14, 2017

The Smart Fortwo Electric Drive offer a maximum range of 99 miles and is now the only Smart Fortwo option in the U.S. and Canada.

Barely a year after belatedly redesigning its microcar line-up, Daimler AG’s Smart brand has confirmed it will stop selling gasoline-powered vehicle in the U.S. and Canada, focusing exclusively on an electrified version of its two-seat Fortwo model.

It is the latest development in a series of setbacks for Smart, which has continued to lose ground despite last year’s redesign. The timing was unfortunate, according to industry analysts, coming at a point when gasoline prices were hovering at barely $2 a gallon and millions of North American buyers have been migrating from passenger cars to utility vehicles and other light trucks.

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News of the decision to go all-electric came in the form of a letter sent by Dietmar Exler, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, to Smart dealers. Declaring “Smart has always been synonymous with innovation,” Exler added that “Developments within the micro-car segment present some challenges for the current smart product portfolio. He concluded that, “A dedicated focus on the electric drive in the U.S. and Canada provides a logical step to support a sustainable, zero emissions future.” (more…)

GM Considers Sale of Struggling Opel to France’s PSA

Automaker's European unit hasn't been profitable since 1999.

by on Feb.14, 2017

Opel chief Karl-Thomas Neumann showed off the Euro version of the Bolt in Paris.

General Motors is once again considering the sale of its money-losing European operations and has entered talks with French automaker Peugeot’s parent, the PSA Group.

The automakers both announced plans to explore new “strategic initiatives” on Tuesday, those statements coming exactly a week after GM confirmed it had once again gone into the red in Europe. It has not earned a profit there since 1999, despite repeated promises to fix the problems at its Opel and Vauxhall brands.

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Noting they already have “three projects in Europe” underway, GM and PSA said they “confirm they are exploring numerous strategic initiatives aiming at improving profitability and operational efficiency, including a potential acquisition of Opel Vauxhall by PSA,” though the joint statement cautioned “There can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached.” (more…)