Friday, 29 July 2016

U.S. approves Volkswagen’s $14.7 billion settlement

The plan for buybacks and a possible fix covers car owners, the U.S. government and 44 states and will cost the company about US$15.3 billion if the agreements are fully adopted. That includes VW's US$603 million accord with the states that isn't part of the settlement before U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco.
"As it appears in your presentation today, as it appeared when you filed your documents, that an enormous effort has been devoted to achieving a series of goals," Breyer said Tuesday in court, where he set a final approval hearing for Oct. 18. "I think from what I've seen, those goals have been achieved, at least preliminarily."
Tuesday's ruling advances Volkswagen's push to resolve a flood of U.S. lawsuits springing from the diesel-cheating scandal. Preliminary approval of the agreement addressing VW and Audi models made since 2009 with 2.0-litre engines still leaves the automaker without a settlement for 82,000 3.0 litre diesel engines while also facing additional state lawsuits by attorneys general in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland that could add billions of dollars to VW's tab.
The pact eats up almost all of the US$17.8 billion Volkswagen had set aside to cover the cost of the scandal worldwide. In addition to investor class actions in the U.S. and lawsuits in Germany and South Korea, the company faces criminal probes in all three countries. The German carmaker took a 2.2 billion-euro charge in the second quarter, chiefly related to legal risks in the U.S. The company will report full earnings figures later this week.
"The parties believe that the proposed settlement program will provide a fair, reasonable and adequate resolution for affected Volkswagen and Audi customers," VW said in a statement. The settlement before Breyer includes US$10 billion for buybacks, as well as US$4.7 billion in government penalties and remediation. With or without a fix, car owners who don't like the buyback option may be able to keep driving the polluting cars in some states.
Drivers who participate in the deal will get at least US$5,100 each as part of a buyback program that will begin in October and run through June 30, 2019, the deadline for the company to get 85 per cent of cars recalled. If it fails to reach that benchmark, it will have to pay US$85 million more into an environmental mitigation trust for each percentage point of the shortfall. It will also have to pay an additional US$13.5 million into the trust for each percentage point it falls below the target in California.
Elizabeth Cabraser, lead lawyer for the consumers, told the judge Tuesday "the money is a means to an end that cannot be achieved without a number of parties working together, as they have throughout the course of negotiations to accomplish a plan that works together in the real world."
Nitrogen Oxide
The carmaker has yet to come up with a fix for the cars emitting up to 40 times the allowable limit of nitrogen oxide gases. The U.S. EPA and CARB must approve any fix proposed by VW. So, far none of the fixes have met agencies' standards.
A Justice Department lawyer told the judge Tuesday that VW is expected in August to submit a new proposal for fixing the 3.0-litre engines.
VW is hiring 250 to 300 people to carry out the settlement requirements, Sharon Nelles, a lawyer for the company, told Breyer. VW will set up a hotline that will be available seven days a week, she said.


US Approves Volkswagens 14.7 Billion Settlement................................

Friday, 22 July 2016

Federal Guidelines for Autonomous Cars on the Horizon

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx

(TNS) -- Companies working on self-driving cars need to focus on safety - "we want people who start a trip to finish it," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Tuesday, saying his department will issue new guidelines on the vehicles this summer.
"Autonomous doesn't mean perfect," he told attendees at an industry conference in San Francisco. "We need industry to take the safety aspects of this very seriously."
Foxx's remarks come in the wake of May's fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S sedan being used in semi-autonomous "autopilot" mode. The car crashed into a truck that the autopilot feature did not sense, killing the car's driver.
The Transportation Department has been working with Google, BMW, General Motors and other companies developing driverless and partly autonomous cars to adapt existing safety rules to the new technologies.
But Foxx said it's time to move beyond existing safety rules.
Although vague about the guidelines, Foxx hinted that they involve "pre-market approval steps" for autonomous car technology. Given industry concerns about regulation hampering innovation, Foxx promised that the approach would be flexible, with a lot of input from businesses, drivers and technology experts.
"We need clear lines of responsibility between industry, government and consumers," he said.
Autonomous cars have great potential to improve safety, he said, but clear rules and guidelines are needed to assure safety and boost would-be buyers' confidence.
He said his department also would create a federal advisory committee to help plan how to "approach autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence more generally" and work with states to come up with standard approaches to regulation.
After the fatal crash in May, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk noted that owners are told that they must remain alert and keep their hands on the steering wheel, even when using the autopilot feature.
Foxx, however, said it must be assumed that some drivers will "push the limits of what the manufacturer intends." Distractions "that can be reasonably foreseen" must be considered for safety's sake.

Federal Guidelines for Autonomus Cars on the Horizon......................

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Ontario gets no applications for self-driving car plan

This image provided by Google shows an artistic rendering of the company's self-driving car. The two-seater won't be sold publicly, but Google on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 said it hopes by this time next year, 100 prototypes will be on public roads. (AP Photo/Google) (AP)

Ontario's program to allow testing of self-driving cars on public roads has not received any applications since it launched Jan. 1, the Canadian province's government said on Wednesday, as a recent U.S. accident increased scrutiny of the technology.
Ontario, home to nearly all of Canada's auto industry, said last year it would be the first province to allow testing of self-driving cars. Ontario's auto sector has struggled as investment shifted to cheaper jurisdictions, and the government has sought to attract higher paying research and development work.
But the province is a late-comer compared with parts of the United States, where Alphabet Inc's subsidiary Google has been testing self-driving prototypes since 2009.
Debate about the safety of driverless cars heated up last week after driver of a Tesla Motors Inc car in autopilot mode was killed in a collision.
A spokesman from Ontario's Ministry of Transportation said the self-driving car program has a 10-year time frame and has received a lot of interest despite the lack of applications.
Ontario confirmed the lack of applications after Reuters learned about it through a freedom-of-information request.
The province said last year nearly 100 companies and other organizations were already working in the connected vehicle and automated vehicle industry in Ontario, and its driverless-car program would enable them to keep research local.
But some car companies with plants in Ontario are still favoring the United States.
Honda Motor Co Ltd, which does research on autonomous vehicles in the United States, said it had no plans to participate.
Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International Inc said that in most cases it is testing self-driving car technology on closed circuits.
General Motors Co said in June it would expand its Canadian engineering base to add 700 jobs in Ontario as it boosts research spending on connected and driverless cars. It did not immediately respond to questions on whether will participate in Ontario's program.
A spokesman for Google, which has agreed to work with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to build a fleet of 100 self-driving mini vans, said the company is not participating in Ontario's program, though he said the province was taking the right steps. Chrysler declined to comment.


Ontario Gets No Applications for Self Driving Car Plan............................

Saturday, 9 July 2016


Private equity investment firm Thoma Bravo LLC announced it will acquire TRADER Corp., Canada's leading digital automotive marketplace and software solutions provider, for $1.575 billion (CAD), from funds advised by Apax Partners. The transaction is expected to close by the fourth quarter.
"We're extremely impressed by TRADER's growth into the largest and most trusted digital automotive marketplace in Canada," Holden Spaht, a managing partner at Thoma Bravo, said in a news release. "We look forward to partnering with Sebastian Baldwin and the entire TRADER team in their commitment to innovation and accelerating the use of TRADER's current and future software solutions."
Sebastian Baldwin, TRADER's president and chief executive officer, said: "Thoma Bravo's track record of success in working with and growing software solutions companies makes them the ideal partner for the next phase of TRADER's growth. We look forward to working closely with them to continue strengthening TRADER's market leading position."
"TRADER is well positioned to continue providing high return-on-investment products to its customer base," said Arvindh Kumar, a principal at Thoma Bravo. "We're excited to collaborate with TRADER to expand its product portfolio organically and through strategic investments and acquisitions."
Peter Stefanski, a vice president at Thoma Bravo, added: "We have spent several years evaluating the broader automotive technology sector. Our partnership with TRADER is an excellent opportunity to invest in a mission-critical franchise we believe will benefit from the growth in automotive online media advertising."
Kirkland & Ellis LLP and McMillan LLP served as legal advisors to Thoma Bravo. Evercore served as M&A advisor.

Thoma Bravo to Aquire Trader Corp in 1.575 Billion Deal........................