Federal judge throws out GM’s racketeering lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler

DETROIT — A federal judge on Wednesday threw out a racketeering lawsuit General Motors had filed against smaller rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, saying the No. 1 U.S. automaker’s alleged injuries were not caused by FCA’s alleged violations.

GM officials said in statement they “strongly disagree” with the order by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman, whom the automaker had sought to have removed from the case, and would appeal.

“There is more than enough evidence from the guilty pleas of former FCA executives to conclude that the company engaged in racketeering, our complaint was timely and showed in detail how their multi-million dollar bribes caused direct harm to GM,” GM said in a statement.

The Detroit company added that Borman’s decision “would let wrongdoers off the hook.”

GM filed the racketeering lawsuit against FCA last November, alleging its rival bribed United Auto Workers (UAW) union officials over many years to corrupt the bargaining process and gain advantages, costing GM billions of dollars. GM was seeking “substantial damages” that one analyst said could have totaled at least $6 billion. FCA had called the case meritless and asked Borman to dismiss it.

On Wednesday, Borman dismissed the lawsuit “with prejudice,” meaning GM cannot refile the complaint.

“The direct victims of defendants’ alleged bribery scheme are FCA’s workers,” Borman wrote of FCA. “GM’s high labor costs were not an injury proximately caused by FCA’s bribes, and any competitive injury that GM suffered as a result of FCA’s advantage in labor costs is an indirect injury.”

“The dismissal of GM’s complaint with prejudice earlier today vindicates our position,” FCA said in a statement.

On Monday, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied GM’s petition to remove Borman from the case, but said the two automakers’ chief executives didn’t have to meet to try to settle the case as Borman had ordered. In calling for that, Borman had called the lawsuit “a waste of time and resources.”

Source: AutoBlog.com

Elon Musk approaches $1.8 billion bonanza

Tesla’s blistering stock rally is putting Chief Executive Elon Musk in reach of a payday potentially worth $1.8 billion, his second jackpot from the electric car maker in about two months.

Fueled by stronger-than-expected car deliveries, shares of Tesla have surged over 40% in the past seven sessions, elevating the company’s market capitalization to $259 billion. More important for Musk’s personal finances, Tesla’s six-month average market capitalization has reached a record $138 billion.

Hitting a six-month average market capitalization of $150 billion would trigger the vesting of the second of 12 tranches of options granted to the billionaire to buy Tesla stock as part of his 2018 pay package. In early May, Musk’s first tranche vested after Tesla’s six-month average stock market value reached $100 billion.

Musk has already achieved targets related to Tesla’s financial growth that are also required in order to vest the approaching options tranche.

Each tranche gives Musk the option to buy 1.69 million Tesla shares at $350.02 each. At Tesla’s current stock price of $1,397, Musk would theoretically be able to sell the shares related to the tranche that vested in May and the upcoming tranche for a combined profit of over $3.5 billion, or $1.8 billion per tranche.

Musk’s first tranche was worth about $700 million in May, when it vested, but its value has since increased along with Tesla’s stock price.

Tesla has surged 500% over the past year as the company increased sales of its Model 3 sedan.

Tesla last week reported higher-than-expected second-quarter vehicle deliveries, defying plummeting sales in the wider auto industry as the coronavirus pandemic slammed the global economy.

The solid delivery numbers heightened expectations of a profitable second quarter, which would mark four consecutive profitable quarters, a first for Tesla, and a key hurdle to be added to the S&P 500 index <.SPX>.

Musk, who is also the majority owner and CEO of the SpaceX rocket maker, receives no salary, only the options in his pay package. A full payoff of all tranches would surpass anything previously granted to U.S. executives.

When Tesla unveiled Musk’s pay package, it said he could theoretically reap as much as $55.8 billion if no new shares were issued. However, Tesla has since issued shares to compensate employees, and also sold shares in secondary offers, including a $2 billion stock sale in February.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Hyundai Xcient Fuel Cell semi truck reports for duty in Europe

Hyundai has a relatively long history with, and apparent resolute dedication to, hydrogen. That dedication goes beyond passenger vehicles like the Tucson Fuel Cell or Nexo. Today, its latest and greatest hydrogen effort is in the realm of commercial vehicles. Hyundai has announced that it is sending the first 10 of its new Xcient Fuel Cell semi trucks to Switzerland, where they will go to work moving goods while creating no harmful emissions.

This is only the first shipment, as Hyundai plans to ship a total of 50 of these Xcient FCEV semis to Switzerland by the end of this year, with deliveries to customers beginning in September. This will be followed by many more, totaling 1,600 hydrogen-powered Xcient trucks going to customers by 2025.

The Hyundai Xcient Fuel Cell is powered by a 190-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell system, made up of two 95-kW fuel cell stacks. Hydrogen is stored in seven tanks, with about 71 pounds of hydrogen providing a driving range of almost 250 miles between fill-ups in the 4×2 version (but Hyundai says more accurate range figures based on configurations and loads will be updated later). It also employs a 73.2-kilowatt-hour battery and a 350-kW (469-horsepower) electric motor. It has a top speed of about 53 miles per hour.

Hyundai also says it is developing a longer-distance version good for 621 miles of driving, which is intended for global markets, including North America.

Though Hyundai hails this as the “world’s first mass-produced fuel cell heavy-duty truck,” other hydrogen semis have been put to use or will be made available soon. Toyota has been testing fuel cell trucks as part of its “Project Portal,” with early prototypes put to work at the Port of Los Angeles, on Southern California routes and even drag-racing a diesel-powered counterpart. Nikola has been working on its trio of fuel cell trucks for years. Honda and Isuzu also announced a partnership for hydrogen-powered heavy-duty trucks earlier this year.

As for the Xcient Fuel Cell, we like the look of this big rig, with the way light glints off its enormous grille. That said, we’re excited about the future, too, as Hyundai also recently showed off a retro-futuristic look with its HDC-6 Neptune hydrogen truck. Give us weird-looking semis that don’t pollute, and we’ll be even happier.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

2021 Audi A7 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid priced at $75,895

The 2021 Audi A7 55 TFSI e PHEV slots into the A7 lineup as the fuel efficient detour between the standard, 48-volt mild-hybrid A7 and the amped-up S7. The Ingolstadt automaker typically offers Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trims, but the PHEV skips the entry-level Premium step. The new sedan starts at $74,900 before a $995 destination charge, for a total of $75,895, just $550 more than the mild-hybrid A7 55 TFSI Premium Plus without that lower-case “e” at the end. The small gap is due in part to a $750 price increase on the mild-hybrid A7 Premium Plus, from $74,595 to $75,345.  

The A7 55 TFSI e Prestige costs $81,245, a $1,900 surcharge over the mild-hybrid A7. That sizable spread is caused by the price of the mild-hybrid A7 Prestige dropping by $1,350, from $79,700 to $78,350. Audi figures all A7 PHEV models could claw back as much as $6,712 in federal tax credits. As a result, you could actually get an A7 PHEV Premium Plus for less than a mild-hybrid A7 Premium, after the federal tax credit.

On a side note about price bumps elsewhere in the lineup, the MSRP of the mild-hybrid A7 in base Premium guise goes up next year by $200 to $70,195. Graduating to the S7 Premium Plus will cost $85,395 in 2021, $500 more than the 2020 version, while the S7 Prestige climbs $800 to $91,295.

Back to the plug-in hybrid, its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is bolstered by an electric motor tucked between the engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The electric motor is fueled by a 14.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the rear load floor. Output comes to 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, which is 27 horses more than the mild-hybrid A7, and an equal amount of torque. The A7 PHEV takes 0.5 seconds longer than the mild-hybrid to reach 60 miles per hour, reeling off the dash in 5.7 seconds instead of 5.2.

In return for more leisurely acceleration, the third PHEV in the Audi U.S. lineup offers three driving modes, including one offering pure electric motoring. And as an added bonus, it qualifies for HOV-lane access in some states. We don’t have an electric range number for the A7 PHEV yet; Audi says it will release EV range and final fuel economy figures closer to the car’s on-sale date in the fall. The A7 uses several methods to maximize battery and fuel efficiency such as setting EV mode as the default on startup, using a heat pump with the climate control system, and tying the powertrain into the navigation system to optimize electricity use while driving in Hybrid mode. Drivers also get visual and haptic feedback from the the MMI and accelerator to encourage efficient driving. 

Outside, Premium Plus automatically dresses up the PHEV in S line garb including revised front and rear fascias, illuminated tread plates, LED headlights and a suspension lowered 20 millimeters. The Premium Plus also gets a number of choice Audi technology as standard such as Audi’s virtual cockpit, a 360-degree overhead-view camera system, four-zone climate control, and Audi’s Integrated Toll Module. The Executive Package adds ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, adaptive cruise control, and Audi active lane assist with emergency assist to the Premium Plus. The Prestige increases the haul of standard equipment with features from the Executive Package as well as a heads-up display, power soft-closing doors, and dual-pane acoustic glass. The cherry on the top trim is the Luxury Package with extended leather, and individual front contour seats in Valcona and Milano leather with massaging functions.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

The Rolls-Royce Dawn leads this month’s list of discounts

If you’re one of the few readers of this site who is in the market for a $350,000 Rolls-Royce Dawn, well, first of all, good for you. And you should be prepared to keep some extra money in your pocket, too, as the drop-top Roller leads this month’s list of the largest monetary discounts with an average of $14,733 taken off the machine’s $359,250 sticker price. That means buyers are paying an average transaction price of $344,517 for the 2020 Rolls-Royce Dawn this month, according to data provided to Autoblog by TrueCar.

An intriguing pair of supercars land in second and third positions this month. The 2019 Acura NSX is selling for an average of $145,174 this month, which represents a 9% discount, or $14,373. With an eerily similar 9% discount of $14,079 comes the 2020 Aston Martin Vantage, which has an average transaction price of $142,002 this month. The Maserati Quattroporte is up next with an average discount of $13,634.

Another Rolls-Royce model lands in the fifth spot, but instead of the aging Dawn it’s the brand-new Cullinan SUV. Although the luxury ‘ute boasts a large discount of $12,427, its staggeringly high retail price of $332,750 means buyers are getting a little less than 4% off the sticker. More interesting to most buyers will be the 2019 Lincoln Navigator, which is one of our favorite full-size SUVs in America. Buyers of Lincoln’s range-topping vehicle are getting average discounts of $11,761. That represents a 13.4% savings for a final price of $75,940.

For a look at the best new car deals in America based on the percentage discount off their suggested asking prices, check out our monthly recap here. And when you’re ready to buy, click here for the Autoblog Smart Buy program, which brings you a hassle-free buying experience with over 9,000 Certified Dealers nationwide.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Congress created coronavirus aid, then some lawmakers benefited

WASHINGTON — At least a dozen lawmakers have ties to organizations that received federal coronavirus aid, according to newly released government data, highlighting how Washington insiders were both author and beneficiary of one of the biggest government programs in U.S. history.

Under pressure from Congress and outside groups, the Trump administration this week disclosed the names of some loan recipients in the $659 billion Paycheck Protection Program, launched in April to help smaller businesses keep Americans employed during the pandemic. Connections to lawmakers, and the organizations that work to influence them, were quickly apparent.

Among businesses that received money was a California hotel partially owned by the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as a shipping business started by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Car dealerships owned by Republican Reps. Roger Williams of Texas and Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania benefited.

Four car dealerships owned by Kelly received $600,000 to $1.4 million. Mike Kelly Automotive Group, Mike Kelly Automotive LP and Mike Kelly Hyundai and Kelly Chevrolet-Cadillac, all near Pittsburgh, received the money. A spokesman for Kelly said he wasn’t part of the loan application and isn’t involved in the operations of the dealerships, in accordance with ethics rules.

Williams, one of the wealthiest lawmakers with a net worth of over $27 million in 2018, received a loan for his Roger Williams Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership in Weatherford, Texas. Williams is president and CEO of JRW Corp. of Fort Worth, which is listed as receiving a loan of $1 million to $2 million. “Like every other company who accepted a small business loan, our business qualified under law and regulation, and today over 100 of our employees are grateful that we did,” Williams said in a statement.

At least five car dealerships owned by the husband of Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., also received loans, each ranging from $350,000 to $1 million, the data show.

Car dealerships in general were major recipients of PPP money. As reported by Automotive News, retailers of new and used vehicles received between $7.6 billion and $11.9 billion — recipients totaled 12,693 new-car dealerships, which is about three-quarters of the U.S. total dealerships. In addition, just under 2,000 used-car dealers received payments totaling as much as $1.5 billion.

Together, the money is credited with saving 746,000 auto-dealership jobs.

According to the Small Business Administration, the $660 billion PPP has helped preserve 51 million jobs nationally.

Fast-food franchises owned by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., received money. So, too, did a law firm owned by the husband of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and the former law firm of Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., which employs his wife.

Money also flowed to a farming and equipment business owned by the family of Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and a regional casino company led by the husband of Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev.

Members of Congress and their families are not barred from receiving loans under the PPP, and there is no evidence they received special treatment. Loans were granted to Democrats and Republicans alike, something President Donald Trump’s campaign was quick to highlight when records showed donors to his campaign coffers were among the earliest beneficiaries.

Hundreds of millions of dollars also flowed to political consultants, opposition research shops, law firms, advocacy organizations and trade associations whose work is based around influencing government and politics.

While voting, lobbying and ultimately benefiting from legislation aren’t illegal, advocates say the blurred lines risk eroding public trust in the federal pandemic response as Congress begins debating yet another round of coronavirus relief.

“It certainly looks bad and smells bad,” said Aaron Scherb, a spokesperson for Common Cause, a watchdog group that was also approved for a loan through the program.

As of June 30, the Treasury Department program had handed out $521 billion to industries including manufacturing, construction, restaurants and hotels.

Treasury identified just a fraction of the total borrowers Monday, naming only companies that got more than $150,000. Those firms made up less than 15% of the nearly 5 million small companies and organizations that received assistance.

Many of the lawmakers connected to loan awards emphasized they weren’t part of the application process.

A spokesperson for Pelosi said her husband, Paul, is a minority investor in the company that owns the El Dorado Hotel in the wine-country town of Sonoma, Calif. Paul Pelosi has a 8.1% stake in the company, valued at $250,000 to $500,000, Pelosi’s office said.

“Mr. Pelosi is a minor, passive investor in this company,” said the Democratic speaker’s spokesperson, Drew Hammill. “He was not involved in or even aware of this PPP loan.” The firm, EDI Associates, is listed as a recipient of a loan between $350,000 and $1 million.

New York-based Foremost Maritime Co., founded by Chao’s parents and run by her sister, was cleared for a loan valued between $350,000 and $1 million. McConnell, a Republican seeking reelection in Kentucky, said Tuesday: “Neither my wife, nor I, have anything to do with that business and didn’t know anything about it.”

The Shaheen & Gordon law firm in Dover, N,H., got a loan of $1 million to $2 million. The firm is owned by Jeanne Shaheen’s husband, William Shaheen. A title company partially owned by William Shaheen got a $160,000 loan and a half dozen companies he partially owns or another relative owns got loans, below $150,000.

Jeanne Shaheen said she “was not involved in any way in applying for those loans nor do I have anything to do with their businesses, and Congress had no role in processing PPP applications.”

Other lawmakers, while distancing themselves from the loan process, sought to portray the PPP program as a success story.

Hern’s Tulsa-based KTAK Corp., a management company for several McDonald’s restaurants, received $1 million to $2 million. Hern isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations, but “he is happy to share that the family business was able to keep all employees either at their current level of employment or move part-time employees to full time,” Hern’s chief of staff, Cameron Foster, said. Four businesses owned by fellow Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., received at least $800,000.

Full House Resorts, a Las Vegas-based casino company led by Lee’s husband, Daniel, got two loans totaling $5.6 million, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said the funds would be used to rehire several hundred employees and prepare to reopen two casinos in Indiana and Colorado.

A spokesperson said Tuesday that Lee did not know about the company’s intention to apply for a loan when she and other Nevada lawmakers pushed for a rule change to allow small casinos to receive the loans. She had no influence over the application or any aspect of Full House’s business or decision making, spokesperson Jesus Espinoza said.

Two wineries tied to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and an Iowa farm run by his family received loans worth at least $2 million. The wineries got separate loans worth $1 million to $2 million, and an Iowa dairy farm that is tied to his relatives received $150,000 to $350,000.

Source: AutoBlog.com

‘Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown’ announced as third installment in racing video game series

Video game publisher Nacon hosted a virtual press conference to reveal some of its upcoming titles, and one of them revives a series that has always shown lots of promise: “Test Drive Unlimited.” Not only that, but it has a motorcycle racing simulation game on the way. However, neither title came with many details as they’re each a ways out from release.

“Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown” is certainly the biggest news, as it will be the third in a series that last had a release in 2011. The teaser trailer doesn’t reveal much except close-ups of candy-colored supercars and a well-dressed human. Past installments of the game have focused on living the lifestyle of the super rich, racing supercars, buying luxury properties to store them, dressing up in designer fashions and exploring exotic locales. The first “Test Drive Unlimited” took place in a nearly 1:1 re-creation of Oahu, and the second added the island of Ibiza. They were fun fantasy simulators that sweated little details, which is why we wanted to see the series make a return someday. According to Nacon and game developer KT Racing, a part of Kylotonn, this installment will again have a real-life location, and it will again be an island. We’re also excited to see that KT Racing is involved, since they’ve done an admirable job with the “WRC” rally racing game series. Past “Test Drive” games developed by Eden Games and published by Atari had some strange driving physics.

The other game being announced is “RiMS Racing,” which is a motorcycle racing sim. Very little was revealed about the title other than it having realistic physics, licensed bikes and famous roads and race tracks. RaceWard Studio is developing the game, and they don’t seem to have any titles to their name yet besides this new one. Apparently it will be built using a game engine created by aforementioned KT Racing, which besides “WRC” also developed “Tourist Trophy: Isle of Man” and that game’s direct sequel.

We’ll have awhile to wait for each of these racing games. “RiMS Racing” is slated for next summer, and “Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown” is early enough in development that it doesn’t have a release date at all.

Source: AutoBlog.com

U.S. probes fuel leaks in GM’s older Chevy Cobalt and HHR vehicles

The U.S. auto safety agency on Tuesday disclosed it has opened an investigation into complaints of fuel leaks in older Chevrolet Cobalt compact cars and HHR wagons, manufactured by General Motors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the investigation, which was opened on Sunday, covers more than 614,000 vehicles from 2008 to 2010 model years.

“The fuel leaks are the result of corrosion of the metal fuel lines underneath the vehicle towards the rear and in the vicinity of the left rear wheel well,” the regulator said after it received 208 complaints of fuel leaks from vehicle owners.

NHTSA said there were no reports of fires or injuries from such leaks, and it was probing the scope and severity of the potential problem to assess any possible safety issues with the vehicles.

GM said it will continue to cooperate with NHTSA in the investigation.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Harbor Freight jack stand recall: Now the replacement stands are also recalled

In May, Harbor Freight recalled more than 1.7 million Pittsburgh-branded three- and six-ton jack stands that could collapse due to a manufacturing flaw. The flaw on those stands came from worn dies in the manufacturing process, which stamped out worn ratchet teeth that wouldn’t engage sufficiently. Harbor Freight issued gift cards to customers, which some shoppers used on replacement jack stands. The following month, a customer put his replacement stand under a Volkswagen Golf, and that stand failed due to what looked like a welding issue on the legs. Harbor Freight said it would investigate the matter, and in a letter to customers, founder and CEO Eric Smidt said the company “identified a welding defect in a small number of the Pittsburgh 3 ton steel jack stands that replaced the recalled jack stands.” So Harbor Freight has added another set of jack stands to the first recall.

The May recall covered three- and six-ton stands with item numbers 56371, 61196, and 61197. This expanded recall adds the three-ton stand with item number 56373.

The company wants to do more than merely swap parts, it wants to earn its customers’ trust back. That could take time and money, Harbor Freight having failed twice with components that are potentially deadly. Smidt’s ready to spend the money, it seems. In his letter, he wrote that the company investigated all of its Pittsburgh three-, six-, and 12-ton steel jack stands and didn’t find the defect, but, “Although none of these other jack stands are being recalled, if you own any of them and have any concern whatsoever, please bring them back and we’ll give you a full cash refund or store credit for those as well.”

If you own any of the recalled stands, stop using them immediately and get them back to Harbor Freight. And perhaps keep an eye on enthusiast chat boards for word on the replacement stands that replace the first replacement stands.

Source: AutoBlog.com

2021 Nissan Frontier prototype spied on the road

The 2021 Nissan Frontier has been spotted on the road this week, wearing thin, form-fitting camouflage that flatters a new design that heralds the pickup’s first comprehensive redesign in a decade and a half. 

Nissan has already confirmed several details of its redesigned 2021 Frontier pickup, even going so far as to tease its powertrain in the current (and soon to be outgoing) model, but the 2021 model year is going to be the real deal: a ground-up redesign of a model that has been relegated to a value proposition after years of seemingly inert development. 

That all changed over the past year, when Nissan confirmed its timeline for the Frontier’s replacement, and gave us a whopping preview of what is in store for the new truck by introducing its new 3.8-liter, 310-horsepower V6 and 9-speed automatic transmission in the existing model. It is now the most powerful factory engine available in the midsize segment. 

Thanks to Nissan’s own teasers, we already had a decent idea of what the new Frontier would look like. The front nose no longer slopes downward when viewed in profile, appearing like most upright truck faces do these days. Two proud twin strips of LED lighting bring it up to date with a signature look, and the hood features multiple muscular lines. Viewed from the side like this, we’re getting Toyota Tacoma vibes from its blocky shape and brawny lines.

Nissan has promised that the new Frontier will offer levels of comfort and refinement already available from the rest of its U.S. competitors, and the company even acknowledged that it may be time to offer a performance-oriented model. The Frontier was originally expected as a 2021 model with a launch happening sometime later this year, and first deliveries expected around February of 2021. Whether the global health crisis has altered that timeline remains to be seen, but we expect Nissan will want to get the word out about its new truck as soon as possible.

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Source: AutoBlog.com