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Former Ford PR Boss Charges Maker Tapped Phones, Car

Vines says Bill Ford Jr. leaked stories to NY Times.

by on Oct.24, 2014

Former Ford PR Executive Jason Vines alleges the automaker bugged his phones, office and car in his new book.

Former Ford PR Chief Jason Vines is alleging that the automaker eavesdropped on his conversations and those of other top executives during his tenure at the company.

In his soon-to-be-released book, “What Did Jesus Drive? Crisis PR in Cars, Computers and Christianity,” Vines claims that security personnel for the automaker bugged his car, cell phone and office for a three-month period during the Firestone tire crisis in 2001.

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He further alleges that he wasn’t the only executive who was being tapped. He suggests then-general counsel John Rintamaki also believed he was being listened to and during a sensitive conversation in Rintamaki’s office, the lawyer pumped up the volume on some classical music to counteract the devices. (more…)

Honda Cuts Executives’ Pay after Fit Recall

CEO stands to lose $70K due to fifth action on new subcompact.

by on Oct.24, 2014

The new Honda Fit cost the maker's CEO $70,000.

Many executives have incentives tied to the performance of the company they work for, but in Honda’s case, senior executives are being docked some pay after the maker’s subcompact Fit was recalled for the fifth time.

The recall involves 425,825 Fit hybrid vehicles and other models in Japan. Honda said in addition to a noise-related issue there is a problem with the ignition coil or power-supply circuit could cause the engine to stop in the Fit and Vezel hybrids as well as some gasoline-powered Fit and N-WGN models.

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The move comes as Honda is facing lawsuits due to accidents involving airbags supplied by Takata Corp. The airbags have been linked to four deaths, which were all in Honda vehicles. (more…)

Takata’s Troubles Don’t End with Faulty Airbags

Japanese supplier investigated for price fixing.

by on Oct.24, 2014

Takata's problems are bigger than the 7.8 million vehicles recalled due to its faulty airbags.

The Japanese auto supplier at the center of a massive recall of due to potentially explosive airbags, Takata Corp., is also mired in a criminal price-fixing investigation by the Department of Justice.

Four Takata executives pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges brought by the Justice Department’s anti-trust division, which charged the company’s executives with colluding with other suppliers to rig bids for seat belts against Honda, Toyota and Mazda.

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In addition to the charges by the DOJ, the U.S. District Court in Eastern District of Michigan has levied fines against Takata totaling more than $71 million. All three Japanese carmakers also have been heavily impacted by the concerns over airbags supplied by Takata, which have exploded and in a number of cases injured motorists. (more…)

After Gloomy Forecast, Ford Earnings Narrowly Beat Expectations

But numbers still down sharply for Q3.

by on Oct.24, 2014

Ford CEO Mark Fields with the 2015 Edge, one of the models critical to turning around its earnings slump.

Ford’s third-quarter earnings report is a classic test of whether you want to view the glass as half-empty or half-full.

The maker recently warned that it would deliver a substantially lower profits due to problems in Europe and other markets, as well as having to cover the cost of a big recall. And, indeed, earnings for the July to September period plunged sharply, from $1.3 billion a year ago to just $835 million.

Earnings News!

The pre-tax profit, at $1.2 billion, was off from a year-earlier $2.6 billion. But at 24 cents a share, that nonetheless managed to beat the 19-cent consensus estimate, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. (more…)

Audi Adds 850,000 Vehicles to Growing Airbag Recall List

But problem is not linked to Takata problems.

by on Oct.24, 2014

The Audi Allroad is one of the models listed in the new recall, along with the A4 and S4.

Audi is the latest automaker to warn consumers about potentially defective airbags, though the maker says the defect it has discovered on some of its smaller A4 models is not linked to the problem that this week led to an unprecedented recall warning by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The German luxury brand is recalling a total of 850,000 vehicles worldwide, including 101,900 sold in the U.S. and another 15,100 purchased in Canada during the 2013 to 2015 model-years. The service action involves the A4, sportier S4 and wagon-based Allroad models.

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The Audi airbags were not produced by Takata Corp., the Japanese mega-supplier now linked to the recall of 16 million vehicles worldwide – including 7.8 million covered by a NHTSA advisory sent out this week.

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Fisker’s Back! Makes Return at L.A. Auto Show

Galpin Auto Sports teams with Danish designer for new muscle car.

by on Oct.23, 2014

Fisker founder Henrik Fisker is debuting a new muscle car at the L.A. Auto Show next month.

Less than two years after stepping down from his namesake company, Henrik Fisker is stepping back onto the automotive stage by joining forces with a California-based mega-dealer to produce the “Ultimate American Muscle Car.”

Danish designer Fisker is teaming with Galpin Motors in a pair of back-to-back vehicle debuts at the L.A. Auto Show next month, but aside from rumors about a new muscle car, details of what’s coming aren’t readily available.

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The preliminary schedule for the show reveals that Fisker has consecutive press conferences for “vehicle debuts,” but lists Galpin Motors and Galpin Auto Sports as the co-presenter for the slots. (more…)

New Ford Crash System “May” Spare Pedestrians

Pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise in recent years.

by on Oct.23, 2014

Ford workers prepare a mannequin for testing the maker's new pedestrian alert system.

Ford Motor Co. will launch a new collision warning system that it says “may” prevent the pedestrian crashes that have become a growing problem on U.S. roads.

While overall highway fatalities have been on a sharp decline in recent years, the number of pedestrians killed in motor vehicle crashes actually has been on the increase over the last half decade, reaching more than 4,700 annual fatalities, according to federal data — and about one death every two minutes worldwide.

The Automotive Journal of Record!

Ford’s new pedestrian alert technology is part of an upgrade to the collision avoidance system it first introduced in 2009, and will be renamed “pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection.” It will first debut on the 2015 Ford Mondeo about to go on sale in Europe, but Ford plans to expand its use to other models, including those sold in the States – where a version of the Mondeo is sold as the midsize Fusion sedan.

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Daimler Reports Mercedes Expected to Hit Sales Record

Company turns profits despite sluggish global economy.

by on Oct.23, 2014

Dieter Zetsche said Daimler's Q3 profits were due in large measure to strong sales by Mercedes-Benz.

Daimler AG used a surge in sales of new Mercedes-Benz models to boost its revenue by 10% in the third quarter despite the soft global economy, which the company expects to slow further by the end of the year.

Daimler Group AG net earnings also increased significantly to 2.82 billion euros compared with 1.89 billion euros in the third quarter of last year and Mercedes-Benz cars is on its way to record sales this year.

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The group’s third-quarter revenue of 33.1 billion euros was 10% above the prior-year level; adjusted for exchange-rate effects, revenue increased by 11%. (more…)

NHTSA’s Friedman Apologizes for Takata Snafu

Deputy chief acknowledges errors in Monday warning.

by on Oct.23, 2014

David Friedman, NHTSA's deputy administrator, apologized for underreporting the number of vehicles equipped with faulty Takata airbags by 3.1 million cars.

The nation’s top automotive safety official issued an apology late yesterday regarding the issuance of incorrect information about the number of vehicles equipped with faulty Takata airbags.

David Friedman, deputy administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, offered up the apology in a statement after the agency shorted the total number of vehicles with the airbags by 3.1 million vehicles.

The Automotive Journal of Record!

NHTSA also forgot to include two automakers – Ford and Subaru – in the tally, used incorrect figures for others, including counting vehicles from General Motors that didn’t actually use the airbags. (more…)

GM Earnings Beat Expectations

Recall crisis shows little impact.

by on Oct.23, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra is offering a positive assessment of the maker's third-quarter earnings.

Battered by recalls and facing challenges in markets as diverse as China, Russia and South America, General Motors nonetheless managed to beat expectations with its third-quarter earnings report, though revenues fell short.

The maker delivered net income of $1.4 billion, or 81 cents a share after factoring in one-time special items that had a $300 million, or 16-cent per share, impact on the bottom line. Factoring in those one-time costs, GM would have earned 97 cents a share, up slightly from 96 cents a year earlier – and two cents above the consensus estimate of industry analysts, according to Thomson Reuters.

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“Strong global sales and growing margins in North America and China helped GM deliver very solid third quarter results,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a prepared statement accompanying the July to September earnings results. “Despite industry challenges in Russia and South America, our earnings were on plan as we continue to execute our customer-focused strategy.”

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