Delphi invests in Israeli lidar-maker Innoviz

Delphi Automotive is partnering with and taking a minority stake in Israeli lidar-maker Innoviz Technologies.

The supplier said Friday the commercial partnership will help it achieve longer-range sensing for Level 3 and higher autonomous driving capabilities. Delphi declined to disclose the amount of the investment.

Innoviz was founded two years ago by former members of the Israeli Defense Forces. The sensor-maker specializes in solid-state lidar, which can scan the environment surrounding the vehicle without requiring a spinning component.

In a meeting with reporters, Delphi Chief Technology Officer Glen De Vos said the supplier will continue to work with solid-state lidar-maker Quanergy, as a diverse sensor suite will be necessary for automated driving. Delphi bought an undisclosed stake in Quanergy in 2015.

“Ultimately, we need solid-state lidar for OEM production,” De Vos said. “We need a couple different types of lidar for the system to work.”

He added that the combination of lidar, radar and cameras creates the highest level of confidence in the vehicle accurately perceiving its environment. De Vos estimated that the supplier will achieve a production-level sensor suite by 2020.

“We want to make sure we have access to what we think are all the best technologies,” he said.

Porsche forges carbon fiber in the wheel

Porsche is bringing an all-carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic wheel to the market, saying it will be the first global automaker to offer the wheel when it debuts in early 2018 as an option on the 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series.

At 19 pounds, the composite wheel is 20 percent lighter than an equivalent aluminum alloy wheel, but Porsche — a unit of Germany’s Volkswagen AG — says the wheels are also 20 percentstronger.

The strength combined with lighter weight will improve performance with “more spontaneity in both acceleration and braking,” Porsche said in a statement.

The wheels will be priced at more than $17,600 for a complete set.

The wheel’s center is produced using woven carbon-fiber fabric, which is cut and assembled with over 200 individual components. To make the rim, Porsche has turned to a braided carbon fiber, investing in what it claims is the world’s largest carbon-fiber braiding machine, with a nearly 30-foot diameter, made by Herzog of Oldenburg, Germany.

The carbon-fiber fabric center is then braided into the rim.

All together, the wheels use 11 miles of carbon-fiber material.

The braiding machinery also is used to integrate the rim and center parts​ before resin impregnation and initial resin curing in a press at high pressure and temperature. Following post-molding final cure, then cooling, the central lock is inserted, and clear protective lacquer is applied to aesthetically emphasize the wheel’s full-carbon construction.

Porsche says the low-waste braided process results in particularly high density and compactness that benefits wheel rigidity.

David Vink is a correspondent for Plastics News Europe, a sister publication of Automotive News.

UAW probe uncovers more names, gifts

DETROIT — UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell’s name has reportedly surfaced in the ongoing U.S. investigation into possible corruption between executives at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the UAW.

According to the union, Jewell, 59, received a shotgun for his birthday in 2015 purchased with a credit card tied to the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center. Once discovering the investigation into the potential misuse of training center funds, and tracing the source of the gift, he reimbursed the union for the $2,180 cost.

“We have thoroughly investigated the matter and concluded that Norwood Jewell did nothing illegal and has acted in line with the UAW’s ethical practices,” the UAW said in a statement.

The union’s statement follows The Detroit News report that retired UAW Associate Director Virdell King, who sat on the UAW-Chrysler training center board for several years, is allegedly the one who purchased the gun for Jewell. She is also under investigation, the report said.

The financial trail of Jewell’s top administrative assistant, Nancy Johnson, is also under federal investigation. The newspaper reported that her training center credit card was used to buy luxury designer purses.

FCA executives partnered with UAW leaders to siphon funds earmarked for employee training for personal use, a federal indictment alleged. The 42-page document outlines a $2.2 million dollar conspiracy, charging UAW and FCA officials embezzled funds for lavish gifts and home renovation. That amount rose to $4.5 million in stolen funds, according to a plea deal for a third official charged in the conspiracy.

The case has led to criminal charges against three people: former Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli, former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden and the wife of Jewell’s predecessor, General Holiefield.

Both Iacobelli and Holiefield’s widow each had a not guilty plea entered on their behalf. Durden pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal for his involvement in funneling the money to the Chrysler training center.

A jury trial for Iacobelli and Morgan is scheduled to begin Sept. 25 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The probe likely will levy more charges against FCA employees and other high-ranking UAW officials who may have been involved.

Following the indictment, the UAW and FCA said they had worked together with the training center to safeguard against future liability. There is now a ban on any charitable donations from the center to a charity run or controlled by a UAW official. There are also new policies and processes in place for vendor and credit cards. Additionally, budgets must be approved by training center board members or directors, and the center has a full-time controller.

A hotline was also created for members to report suspected wrongdoing.

U.S. charges retired UAW official in ongoing corruption probe

DETROIT — A well-known official of the UAW has become the fourth person charged in connection with a $4.5 million embezzlement case involving the union and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Virdell King, a retired UAW associate director, was charged in a 17-page document with using a credit card from a training center for Chrysler employees to buy more than $40,000 worth of clothing, jewelry, luggage and other personal items for herself and other senior UAW officials.

King, who is known the first African-American female to be elected president of a local union in UAW-Chrysler’s history, was charged in U.S. District Court on Friday in the information document, indicating that she is likely cooperating and working on a plea deal with the government.

“We are disheartened by the misconduct alleged in today’s indictment,” UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement on Friday. “Ms. King is no longer with the union and hasn’t been since February 2016. Based on our own internal investigation, we believe anyone who engaged in intentional misconduct is no longer employed by the UAW. We continue to cooperate with the DOJ (Department of Justice) and share information with the government.”

Among the purchases for herself was a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes for more than $1,000, authorities said. Another was a $2,180 shotgun, was gifted to UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell by King in 2015 for his birthday. After discovering the firearm was gifted using stolen funds, Jewell reimbursed the union for the cost. Jewell has not been publicly named as part of the investigation at this time.

“We have thoroughly investigated the matter and concluded that Norwood Jewell did nothing illegal and has acted in line with the UAW’s ethical practices,” the UAW said in a separate statement.

The financial trail of Jewell’s top administrative assistant, Nancy Johnson, is also under federal investigation, The Detroit News reported. Allegedly, her training center credit card was also used to buy luxury designer goods, the newspaper reported.

FCA executives partnered with UAW leaders to siphon funds earmarked for employee training for personal use, a federal indictment alleged. The 42-page document outlines a $2.2 million dollar conspiracy, charging UAW and FCA officials embezzled funds for lavish gifts and home renovation. That amount rose to $4.5 million in stolen funds, according to a plea deal for a third official charged in the conspiracy.

The case has led to criminal charges against three people: former Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli, former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden and Monica Morgan, the wife of Jewell’s predecessor, General Holiefield.

More details

The document released Friday outlines how credit cards tied to the training center funds were distributed to UAW executives. In December 2012, Holiefield allegedly told King that Iacobelli did not have a problem with them using their NTC credit cards to purchase personal items “if we see something we want.”

In February 2012, Durden directed that payments to credit cards were to be “screened” from the members of the NTC accounting staff, and changed the security settings of the center’s accounting software to further conceal payments, according to the document.

Both Iacobelli and Holiefield’s widow each had a not guilty plea entered on their behalf. Durden pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal for his involvement in funneling the money to the Chrysler training center.

A jury trial for Iacobelli and Morgan is scheduled to begin Sept. 25 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The probe likely will levy more charges against FCA employees and other high-ranking UAW officials who may have been involved.

Following the indictment, the UAW and FCA said they had worked together with the training center to safeguard against future liability. There is now a ban on any charitable donations from the center to a charity run or controlled by a UAW official. There are also new policies and processes in place for vendor and credit cards. Additionally, budgets must be approved by training center board members or directors, and the center has a full-time controller.

A hotline was also created for members to report suspected wrongdoing.

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Audi manager held in Germany being sought by U.S. for extradition, report says

American authorities asked Germany to keep an executive of Volkswagen AG’s Audi unit in custody to prepare for his extradition while offering him a guilty-plea deal, Bloomberg reported.

The man, who in Germany can only be identified as “Giovanni P.,” was arrested last month and is being held in Munich, the report said. His lawyers have challenged the detention but German prosecutors are opposing their bid, Andrea Grape, a spokeswoman for Munich prosecutors, said Friday. In a separate procedure, a local judge already ruled that the man must be held to allow the U.S. to make its extradition request, according to the report.

Bloomberg, in its report, did not give the executive’s full name, but he is presumably Giovanni Pamio, who was charged with fraud in the U.S. last month.

U.S. authorities offered him a seven-year sentence if he pleads guilty to charges in the U.S., his German lawyer, Walter Lechner told Bloomberg on Thursday. His client rejected the offer, he said, declining to comment further.

The U.S. Justice Department said in July it charged Pamio with conspiring to defraud U.S. regulators and consumers through software designed to falsify results in thousands of Audi vehicles marketed as “clean diesel.” They already asked Germany in June to arrest the man to prepare extradition proceedings, which will now start, according to a spokesman for the Munich general prosecutor who oversees international cooperation in criminal matters.

Bloomberg said “Giovanni P.” has been talking to German prosecutors, who continue to interrogate him, Grape said. While his statements are now being reviewed, the probe at the moment isn’t targeting any current or former Audi management board members, she said.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that “Giovanni P.” claimed that top managers were involved.

Pamio was the eighth person charged in the U.S. case against Volkswagen over the diesel-emission cheating, which has cost the automaker more than $24 billion in government penalties and owner restitution. Most of the men charged so far have been German citizens who can’t be extradited to face trial in a non- European Union jurisdiction. Giovanni P. is an Italian living in Germany and in theory can be extradited, although the German case would take precedence over the U.S. charges.

An Italian citizen, Pamio worked for Audi’s diesel-engine development department in Neckarsulm, Germany. After realizing that it was impossible to calibrate a diesel engine to meet emissions standards within the company’s design constraints, Pamio directed Audi employees to implement software functions to cheat the U.S. emissions tests, the Justice Department said.

Bloomberg and Automotive News contributed to this report.

Toyota’s safe-driving app plays parents’ uncool music when teenagers speed

How can terrified parents of newly qualified teen drivers persuade them to drive safely? Toyota has come up with what could be an ingenious method — embarrassing them.

The brand’s new Safe and Sound App, created by Saatchi & Saatchi London, not only blocks social media posts and incoming calls once they’re traveling over 9 mph, it automatically switches to playing their parents’ Spotify playlist once they break the speed limit or try to use their phone. And, naturally, parents are free to put as much embarrassing music on there as they choose.

The parents activate the app when the teen wants to borrow their car, and it syncs both parent and child Spotify accounts. The app uses Google Maps API technology to detect if they’re speeding, and when the young driver touches their phone or breaks the speed limit, the music they are playing through Spotify will suddenly cut out and their parents’ playlist will kick in instead. Only once the driver stops interacting with their phone or returns to within the speed limit will their own music resume playing.

Jason Mendes, executive creative director of Global brands at Saatchi & Saatchi, explains in a statement:

“Tell teenagers to turn their phone off in a cinema and they will — tell them to turn it off in a dangerous situation, like driving a car, and they won’t. Go figure. However, for teenagers, the threat of embarrassment is far more severe than the threat of injury — that insight we thought was a powerful platform to create something that would cut through, make a difference and ultimately continue the conversation around safety.”

The app is available to all drivers, not just those of Toyotas, for Android phones only.

For more coverage from Advertising Age, an affiliate of Automotive News, click here.

Top fund investors pumped brakes on fast-rising Tesla stock

BOSTON — Top Tesla Inc. investors Fidelity Investments and T. Rowe Price cut their holdings in the second quarter and indicated they were taking profits from the electric car maker stock, which is up 65 percent this year.

Sellers included Fidelity funds like Fidelity OTC Portfolio, which sold 1.62 million shares, or 43 percent of its position during the quarter, as well as funds managed by T. Rowe Price Group, including T. Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund , which sold 1.33 million shares during the quarter or 48 percent of its position, recent securities filings show.

Both funds remain among the ten largest fund investors in Tesla, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Other big sellers of Tesla during the quarter were Morgan Stanley funds including Morgan Stanley Institutional Growth Portfolio.

In total, institutional investors held 95.2 million shares of Tesla at the end of June, 10.7 million fewer shares than at the end of March, according to an analysis of filings by edgaronline.com.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Aug. 3 alone Tesla shares rose more than 6 percent as its quarterly earnings report fueled expectations its new Model 3 sedan would help turn the Palo Alto, Calif., company into a mainstream carmaker. Tesla is now the highest valued U.S. car maker with a market capitalization of some $60 billion.

It had $3 billion cash on hand at June 30, reassuring investors who had worried after CEO Elon Musk warned it would face six months of “manufacturing hell” in ramping up Model 3 production, and raised $1.8 billion in debt last week.

A quarterly commentary posted on Fidelity’s website for OTC Portfolio called Tesla a “market darling” that was the top contributor to the fund’s returns but noted some concerns.

“Some investors worried whether the Model 3 electric vehicle was ‘too good,’ with potential to cannibalize sales from Tesla’s more-expensive models,” it states. “We banked some profit by reducing our stake – at least for now,” the commentary says.

Asked about the stock sales, a spokesman for T. Rowe Price said in an e-mailed statement that “We’re not afraid to trim and take profits on appreciated stocks where appropriate. TSLA is still a significant holding in several of our portfolios and we continue to be excited about the Model 3 ramp.”

A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman declined to comment.

Shares in Tesla closed at $351.92 on Thursday. They closed at $361.61 on June 30, having risen 23 percent during the second quarter.

The company’s rapid rise and lack of profit has drawn concerns it could be overvalued. In a recent note to clients BMO Capital Markets economists noted how Tesla is worth more than Ford Motor Co. “even though the latter has 22 times more revenue and regularly makes a profit.”

About a fifth of the shares available for trading, or float, has been sold short by investors betting the stock will fall, according to S3 Partners, a financial analytics firm.

Ford CEO doesn’t see robot army on roads anytime soon

SAN FRANCISCO — Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett doesn’t foresee a robot takeover when it comes to the advent of autonomous vehicles.

Hackett outlined his vision for future mobility at Ford’s City of Tomorrow event in San Francisco on Thursday. Rather than predict an all pod-car streetscape within the next decade, he said technology will gradually augment current challenges, easing pain points such as limited parking and vehicle access that commuters deal with on a daily basis.

“When you paint the robots as perfect and humans as imperfect, we’ve made a big mistake,” Hackett said. “We don’t need the robot to get around.”

Hackett, who formerly headed Ford’s Smart Mobility subsidiary before replacingMark Fields as CEO in May, has been tasked with formulating Ford’s mobility strategy in an increasingly competitive field. The company has invested in various transportation technologies, including lidar-maker Velodyne, mapping startup Civil Maps, bikeshare company Motivate, ride-sharing startup Chariot and autonomous driving startup Argo AI.

In July, Hackett said he was using his first 100 days as CEO to review Ford’s future product plans — which includes the introduction of a Level 4 self-driving vehicle for commercial use by 2021.

To make the most of technological innovations in transportation, companies must examine every perspective, Hackett said, and work to create an egalitarian system. While automated technology can ease problems such as crash avoidance, navigating traffic accidents and parking options, it can’t fully address problems of equal access on its own.

Hackett said a combination of analog and new technologies will be necessary to create a better transportation environment.

“Networks only get stronger by inclusion, there’s no gain by carving someone out,” he said.

Hackett acknowledged that some of Ford’s competitors in autonomous vehicle development have gained an advantage in data collection by operating services off of smartphones, adding that to deliver effective mobility services, Ford must be able to understand consumer patterns and preferences.

“We need to be able to piece together these attributes of what inside a city are the pain points for customers today,” he said. “We can then marry that technological capability to the stepping stones of the pain points in a city.”

Detroit 3 to tout performance and vintage cars at Woodward Dream Cruise

DERTOIT — Ford, Chevy and Dodge will turn to the Woodward Dream Cruise, a classic-car celebration in suburban Detroit, on Saturday to generate some marketing buzz on their offerings.

Ford signed on in June on as the event’s one-year presenting sponsor, replacing Chevrolet’s previous six-year sponsorship. The extravaganza is expected to draw around 1.5 million people.

While Ford will host its mainstay event, Mustang Alley, a pony car display, it will also introduce a new driving-skills exhibit. The Driving Skills for Life program will teach drivers safety techniques through a virtual reality app, made to simulate the experience of driving a Ford vehicle.

For more Dream Cruise coverage from Autoweek, the auto enthusiast affiliate of Automotive News, click here.

“This year we are expanding Mustang Alley west for the first time to create a larger footprint than years past,” a spokesman for Ford said. “We’re also adding the Driving Skills exhibit as a free event to draw in more people.”

Dodge, on the other hand, wants racing enthusiasts to take a shot at smoky burnouts during Roadkill Nights “Powered by Dodge.” The thousands of people expected at Roadkill Nights can also take a thrill ride with a professional driver in a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, Charger SRT Hellcat or Viper.

Chevrolet will occupy its traditional spot at the “triangle” — where Woodward and Old Woodward meet north of Detroit in Birmingham — to show off its pickups and the Camaro and Corvette.

Although the event entertains thousands with food, music and speedsters, Ford also sees it as an opportunity to extend its marketing reach.

“Dream Cruise is all about the sheer joy and freedom of the automobile, and Ford has always celebrated car culture,” Ford marketing chief Mark LaNeve said in a statement. “From Fiesta to GT, we’re obsessed with making driving fun and we’re committed to celebrating that passion with enthusiasts of all ages in the birthplace of motoring.”

Here are additional details about the brands’ plans:

Ford Performance

    • Mustang Alley , in its 19th year at the Dream Cruise, features an array of muscle cars and the 2018 Mustang.

    • Vaugn Gittin Jr. will show off his toy collection, including an RTR Mustang and Formula D race car.

    • At multiple spots along Woodward, Ford will display its performance catalog, including the 2018 Mustang Shelby GT, Focus RS and F-150 Raptor.

    • The Driving Skills for Life exhibit will help new drivers master their vehicles by simulating the experience of driving through virtual reality.

    • Ford car clubs that don’t have a separate location on Woodward can show their vehicles at the enthusiast meetup at Memorial Park in nearby Pleasant Ridge.

    Dodge Showcase

      • Dodge’s celebration of old-style muscle, Roadkill Nights, started on Aug. 12 on one-quarter mile of Woodward in Pontiac. It will continue through Saturday Aug. 19.

      • An M-1 course neighboring the Roadkill Nights track will host a car show, simulators and dyno tests. Last year the event drew around 30,000 spectators.

      • A celebrity drag race will take place that evening at 6:30 p.m., featuring Roadkill hosts and celebrities from “House of Muscle” and “Hot Rod Garage.”

      Chevy Showcase

        • Chevy will have Heritage displays of its pickups aand the Camaro and Corvette as well as Redline Edition models and the full Chevy lineup at the confluence of Woodward and Old Woodward in Birmingham.

        • The triangle formed by Woodward and Old Woodward will also showcase the new Camaro ZL1 NASCAR Cup Series Race.

        • At 13 Mile and Woodward, Chevy will have a Performance and Motorsports display including concepts that feature performance parts and accessories. Race cars will also be on display here.

        • The Corvettes on Woodward Event — a main attraction for Corvette owners in past years — has been canceled this year, with hopes of resuming in 2018.

BMW and Daimler may consider merging car-sharing units

FRANKFURT — German carmakers Daimler and BMW may be in talks to combine their car-sharing services Car2Go and DriveNow, the chief executive of car rental company and DriveNow partner Sixt hinted on Thursday.

Daimler and BMW have discussed pooling their car-sharing businesses to better compete against ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft which have started offering pay-per-use mobility services that are more convenient than car ownership.

Asked whether Sixt was involved in merger talks with Daimler and BMW, CEO Erich Sixt said: “At the last press conference I made clear that we are not involved. Today I can only say ‘no comment’. This is of course a slightly different statement from the last one. Why things are dragging on is not down to us.”

In May Sixt had said it was not involved in any merger talks, but added that its 50 percent DriveNow stake had been valued at around 480 million euros ($560 million).

Car2Go declined to comment. No one at DriveNow was immediately available for comment.

On being asked whether BMW was in talks to combine its car-sharing business with Daimler’s, a spokeswoman for BMW said, “We are in constant talks with our partners and are of course evaluating the strategic options for our activities and stakes.”

Demand for car-sharing services has taken off in a number of major cities including London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Milan and Helsinki, where customers can use free parking, a major cost and convenience factor.

More than a third of clients who tried BMW’s DriveNow car-sharing business in London sold their own car and only 20 percent were determined to keep their privately owned vehicles.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler are now working on developing autonomous cars, vehicles which could enable them to upend the market for taxi and ride-hailing services.

The market for ride-hailing services currently makes up around 33 percent of the global taxi market, and could grow eightfold to $285 billion by 2030, once autonomous robotaxis are in operation, Goldman Sachs said.

Sixt said its DriveNow business had grown its customer base from 815,000 people at the end of 2016, to 950,000 at the end of June. As of August 2017, Car2Go had 2.7 million members, who have access to 13,900 vehicles in eight countries in North America and Western Europe and in China.